Piers Morgan’s Advice for CNN

Piers Morgan pinned a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. A bulk of it, which I have quoted below, addresses his time (and thoughts about) CNN.

An interesting tidbit? He wanted Anderson Cooper replaced!

Well, Jeff is trying to redefine the primetime slate with taped series like Anthony Bourdain’s superb Parts Unknown, hoping it will provide a more commercially successful alternative to the dreary, repetitive no-news news days. Some programs will work, some won’t — and some will get bounced off the airwaves by breaking news. I understand why Jeff’s doing it, but many CNN staffers are genuinely worried that, as Roger Ailes says, CNN is now “out of the news business.”

Personally, I’m not convinced that chasing ratings is necessary anyway. CNN is not just a U.S. network. It’s a global brand that airs in 200 countries and territories and relies on being an accurate purveyor of news — and it makes a ton of money providing that service. Very little of its revenue — which comes largely from subscriptions now — depends on domestic primetime ratings.

The pressure comes entirely from media critics snarking at low ratings when the news drops off. Of course, when Jeff orders saturation coverage of stories like MH370, the same critics hammer him for trying to milk news ratings as long as possible.

There, they have a point. I tuned in to CNN four weeks after I went off the air to find my old 9 p.m. hour devoted to the exact same debate on the missing plane I had on my final show, even down to the same guests and questions! It was Groundhog Day for cable news, and no anchor I spoke to was comfortable doing it.

My own answer to CNN’s perennial ratings “issue” would be to completely ignore it. Ted Turner, when I interviewed him, said his vision for CNN when he created it was for it to be The New York Times of the airwaves. “Even if the ratings weren’t the greatest,” he said, “if you had the most prestige and you were the network everyone turned to in times of a crisis, that was the most important position in the news business to hold.”

Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes gave me similar advice: “Don’t do shows just to chase ratings, focus on producing good shows.”

They are both right. But I would add to this the need for anchors who can tell a story, do a lively interview and have opinions. There’s a reason the hottest cable stars in America include the likes of Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, John Oliver and Maddow: They speak their minds in an entertaining way.

I suggested to Jeff that Megyn Kelly would be a perfect primetime star for CNN — young, beautiful, slick, razor smart, bursting with opinions, humor and authority. I was convinced she’d give me a much better lead-in than Anderson Cooper, who for all his qualities as a reporter is stiff in a studio and gets annihilated in the ratings every night by O’Reilly. Jeff nodded and replied, “I tried to get her.” Days later, it was announced Megyn was moving to Fox News primetime, where she’s been a huge hit. CNN has many good anchors, but it needs to find more of its own Megyn Kellys.

Categories: CNN

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