It’s a predicament a lot of networks have faced over the years. AMC stopped being primarily about movie classics. MTV stopped playing music. TLC stopped being about learning. The History Channel stopped being about history. Now, it looks very possible that the news network, CNN, may stop being about … the news.
Facing its worst ratings in 20 years, embarrassingly muffing one of the biggest news stories of 2012, and the resignation of its CEO, CNN is now trying something BOLD and NEW. According to the NYPost, they’re going to make reality shows.
In the past few weeks, the No. 3 cable news channel has started seeking out reality-show ideas and big-name stars not afraid to talk politics. They have even begun working on a late-night talk show, The Post has learned.
Convinced that its current programming badly needs updating, CNN execs have been making the rounds of Hollywood’s top talent agencies — something entertainment networks do several times a year but a first for the old-line news channel.
In a series of conference calls, the network has also been soliciting ideas from the same producers who supply reality shows to channels like Bravo, Discovery and History, according to sources.
Among the ideas in the hopper is a late-night version of The View, five new reality shows for Saturday and Sunday nights, and using their new personality, Anthony Bourdain, as the prototype for the future of the network. Only Anderson Cooper, it seems, is safe.
All things considered, that’s not actually a terrible idea: Twenty-four hours of Anthony Bourdain would perform better than what CNN is airing now, but it still misses the bigger problem. You can pinpoint the beginning of the end of CNN as the leading news network to their decision to unceremoniously drop Aaron Brown and the first time they dropped Soledad O’Brien. Up until that point, partisan competition aside, at least people considered CNN a serious news network and when actual news broke, as opposed to political bickering, people still tuned in to CNN. The network lost its way when it tried to compete with Fox News and MSNBC and lost its credibility as a serious news network (the holograms didn’t help). Now, it’s going to compete with the History Channel and Bravo! I don’t expect the network to do that much better.
If CNN really wants to remake itself, it might consider hiring Mackenzie MacHale. It may not improve ratings that much, but there is value in respect. Right now, CNN has zero.
Update: According to the NYTimes, CNN denies seeking reality shows. It says it’s looking for “nonfiction original series.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. That’s the most hilarious euphemism for crappy reality television I’ve ever heard.