Cooper’s in, Brown out at ‘NewsNight’
Rising star becomes new face of CNN news
November 3, 2005
As CNN fell further behind Fox News Channel in the network cable news ratings, one thing became clear: serious-minded CNN lacked the appealing and often polarizing personalities that make Fox News so popular.
It’s a problem the network has struggled to address for years, and one of the biggest symptoms of that problem was bland NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown.
Yesterday, CNN took a step toward reaching a balance between substance and style, promoting the colorful Anderson Cooper to anchor its primetime nightly news show and booting Brown, who had anchored the show for four years.
Cooper takes over CNN’s 10 p.m. show NewsNight, which will expand to two hours starting Monday. Anderson Cooper 360, which currently airs at 7 p.m., will be replaced by an extra hour of Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room, which airs from 3 to 6. “Lou Dobbs Tonight” will remain in the 6 p.m. slot, and Paula Zahn and Larry King stay at 8 and 9, respectively.
The move isn’t a huge surprise. Cooper received acclaim for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and soon after began teaming with Brown on NewsNight. In October the show was up 27 percent in total viewers, to an average 813,000, compared with last year. It was up 41 percent among 25-54s to 265,000.
Brown was never a favorite of CNN president Jon Klein, who revamped the NewsNight format after joining the network a year ago. There have been rumors floating ever since that Brown might get axed.
Brown, though a capable anchor, saw his reputation tarnished in 2003 when he chose to remain on a golf vacation rather than return to the anchor seat during the Columbia space shuttle disaster.
Cooper, meanwhile, has been a rising star for some time. He began anchoring 360 two years ago, two years after joining the network from ABC.
He received much praise for his sensitive coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and his humor and good looks helped ratings for 360 rise steadily over the past two years. Last month the show averaged 241,000 25-54s and 672,000 total viewers, CNN’s fourth-highest-rated program.
Cooper’s name has surfaced in recent speculation over who will become the permanent anchor for CBS News, no doubt helping to spur this promotion.
After Sept. 11, Brown seemed poised to become the face of CNN. It never happened. Brown always seemed better suited for a broadcast anchor job, lacking the warmth and personality needed to carry a show on cable, where viewers expect something a little more offbeat.
At the same time, CNN wanted to maintain its air as the serious network, avoiding stunts like Phil Donahue’s hiring at MSNBC or rant-a-thons like FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor.
CNN averaged 824,000 total viewers in primetime during October, less than half of Fox News’ 1.7 million. MSNBC averaged 359,000. Among adults 25-54, CNN averaged 229,000, behind Fox’s 392,000 but well ahead of MSNBC’s 142,000.
All three news networks are way down from last fall, when the presidential election drove viewership.
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