CNN has fallen to third place in prime time. It’s an easy way out to argue that it’s because CNN is doing news while Fox and MSNBC are doing talk. But it seems to me that CNN has three problems of its own making:
- It’s given up on the 8 p.m. slot, where Campbell Brown is caught between Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann. Has anyone ever watched Brown’s show? She certainly isn’t compelling enough as part of “The Best Political Team on Television” (or at least the largest) to make me want to check her out.
- Larry King at 9 p.m. — you can’t live with him, you can’t live without him. CNN’s fortunes have been tied up with King for so many years that no one dares to mess with his show. But it’s not what it used to be. I’d move it to 8 and try to come up with something else at 9. An intelligent political talk show, perhaps? If that’s not too oxymoronic?
- At 10 p.m., CNN ought to clean up. Its best anchor, Anderson Cooper, is up against Greta Van Susteren and the Olbermann rerun. Trouble is, Cooper’s newscast lacks a distinct identity. And because it’s two hours long, he spends way too much time flogging stuff that will be coming up after 11, when people are either in bed or watching Jon Stewart. I’d cut it to an hour and make it a consistent, signature newscast. Then again, that’s what Aaron Brown was doing in that time slot, and I would have kept him and deployed Cooper elsewhere.
Problem solved. Next?