CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton more or less suggested why he fired Jon Klein, CNN’s U.S. president of six years, during a conference call with reporters this morning.”We need to be more relevant, more interesting, more entertaining, and I don’t think ‘entertaining’ is a bad word in terms of news,” Walton said.
Conceding CNN’s poor ratings, Walton stressed that the cable news network’s business is in good shape.
“The ratings clearly need to get better, but CNN as a business is thriving,” said Walton. “We’re currently on track to have our 7th consecutive year of profit growth and we’re enjoying a time of profit in the newsbusiness when many folks around the world who do journalism are having some financial difficulties.”
To that effect, Walton announced that CNN will hire an executive vice president managing editor “to shape and guide our coverage across all platforms worldwide.”
Asked what advertisers have been saying about the ratings decline, Walton replied: “The ad revenue for CNN U.S. primetime only accounts for less than 10% of CNN Worldwide’s overall revenues. We’re clearly not satisfied with the ratings but I want to be careful that we take that in context.” Also: “CNN is pure and has class and advertisers want to be associated with that.”
Walton also deflected a suggestion that Klein’s departure might reflect a lack of confidence in the new primetime lineup Klein built: On October 4, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer replaces Campbell Brown at 8 p.m. with a new nightly discussion show, and starting in January, “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan will fill the 9 p.m. hole left by the departure of Larry King.
“We felt that it was important to go ahead and make the moves before we launched these new programs, because we didn’t wanna have any disruption once these programs are on the air,” said Walton. “You’ll all be pleasantly surprised with our new program on October fourth, and with Piers Morgan in January.”
Responding to a question about whether the ratings slump had damaged CNN’s brand, Walton replied: “I don’t think so. More people are routing for us than anytime in our history.”
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