While nowhere near as shocking as News Corp.'s surprise closure of News of the World, across the Atlantic CNN delivered its own shocker this week. Eliot Spitzer is out as CNN replaces his nine-month old In the Arena roundtable program that followed the demise of Parker Spitzer, and faithful Anderson Cooper regains his flagship positioning with Anderson Cooper 360 moving to 8 p.m. ET starting August 8th.
Spitzer's ouster isn't the only news. Additional changes to the CNN schedule include the shifting, in late September, for The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer from 5-7 p.m. to a late afternoon 4-6 p.m. slot; John King’s show will move to 6 p.m.; while Erin Burnett, recently hired from CNBC, will assume the 7 p.m. slot as the lead-in to Cooper.
The only prime-time show unaffected is Piers Morgan Tonight, the 9 p.m. interview show introduced six months ago to replace Larry King.
The CNN shake-up is one more attempt to raise sagging ratings. “We think it creates better flow from show to show, and we think that will improve the overall performance across the evening,” commented Ken Jautz, the head of CNN US, to the New York Times.
Jautz emphasized that the 8 p.m. slot is “emblematic of what a news network stands for,” and that Cooper’s program “embodies CNN’s strength and its uniqueness.”
Parker Spitzer was an effort to ride the wave of political debate in cable prime time, up against the popularity of The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity on Fox News Channel and the progressive lineup on MSNBC.
But the disgraced former New York governor could not deliver the ratings, and his show became the lowest-rated nightly cable news program. Jautz commented to TV Guide, "We think we can do better."
The new line-up, he added, “underscores a commitment to quality journalism. The shows not only provide reporting but have a view based on their reporting."
CNN is now putting its marketing muscle behind Cooper as its primetime face, leading the network that Ted Turner founded into political battle as the 2012 US presidential race heats up with Fox News, MSNBC and (as of last month) Keith Olbermann on Current TV.
Spitzer signed off last night by reading a 1910 speech by Theodore Roosevelt that inspired "In the Arena" as his show’s title: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes short again and again.”
He concluded the quote, “Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”