CNN Tonight: 9pm; eventually 10pm

So, let’s make our way through the mystery surrounding CNN Tonight.  A mix of this will be speculation and fact; as to not confuse anyone, I’ll be sure to make it evident when I’m speculating or when I’m discussing what is already confirmed.

Let’s start with what we know: starting in the summer, CNN Tonight will air live at 10pm with a rotating cast of hosts.  We also know Bill Weir was said to have been guaranteed a primetime slot when he was hired on to CNN (in late 2013).  Presumably, he will join the rotating cast… but will rotating necessarily satisfy him (or his contract)?  I’m leaning towards a no – so I imagine he will rotate heavily, or at the very least…consistently.

Moving on, since that’s basically all we know for certain:  CNN Tonight will be at 10pm, taped shows at 9pm, starting this summer.

Well, as you know… Summer isn’t here yet.  Next week, CNN Tonight will make a debut at 9pm.  It will be hosted by Bill Weir Monday-Friday.  The following week is Don Lemon’s.  (Remember: it was announced before CNN’s Upfront that Smerconish, Tapper, Weir, and Lemon would all get a week at 9pm primetime, following Morgan’s departure).  I’m most interested on the branding Don will use when it is his turn – will he go off of the CNN Tonight brand, or will he use The Don Lemon Show brand, which he has been using for the past month or so?  If it is up to him, I imagine he’ll go with The Don Lemon Show – but it may not be up to him.

And since Don is almost certainly going to rotate as a host of Tonight when it is at 10pm, he may be forced to use the Tonight branding when he has his week-go at 9pm, simply to familiarize viewers with the graphics, the format… and him.

Now let’s get to who will rotate, and what rotate means.

The who’s that are going to rotate the most (probably):

  • Bill Weir (almost certainly)
  • Don Lemon (almost certainly)
  • Jim Sciutto (he has subbed a lot lately [but never in primetime], and he’s a great Zucker hire)

The who’s that are less likely, but not altogether unlikely:

  • John Berman (his name could have went on the probable list and also the unlikely list; he’s subbed a lot in primetime, but he also has two morning shows to juggle)
  • Brianna Keilar (she’s going to want a show sooner or later, and she was named the principal sub for The Situation Room – but let’s face it, Wolf is rarely absent)
  • Brooke Baldwin (she did a primetime stint during Burnett’s maternity leave with ICYMI; she’s a great host, and she probably will rotate… The problem is her early-evening program)
  • Chris Cuomo (Improbable; at the same time, he’s a great anchor and would do better in primetime than morning news)

And now… Just exactly WHAT does “rotate” mean?  The way I see it, there are two separate definitions, and both of them are possible (in my opinion, at any rate).  Rotating hosts could simply mean there’s a different host on a different day, but that one person will get the same day… every day.  (For example: Lemon on Mondays and Wednesdays; Weir on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Sciutto on Fridays).  And then, there’s “rotating” that could simply mean no rhyme or reason to what happens, and it will just be a complete random selection, and you won’t know who you’ll be getting until the broadcast (or until the anchor tweets about it, encouraging you to watch).

Personally, I’m hoping it is more of a certain anchor doing a certain day… not complete randomness.

Regardless, we will see. To keep up-to-date on this, you can follow the show on Twitter, CNN Tonight and its EP, Jonathan Wald.  Or… Just follow me on Twitter.

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