“‘When we pick a brand, what we’re really doing is picking an element of ourselves that reinforces who we are,’ said Tom Dougherty, the president of the branding agency Stealing Share, who says CNN’s brand is in a ‘quagmire.’ ‘Until they decide who they’re for — which is an amazingly difficult thing to do, and includes deciding who they are not for — they will flounder.'”
— A quote from the New York Times story on CNN’s declining prime time ratings, especially for Larry King
Brian Stelter of the New York Times takes a devastating look at Larry King, the host of the 9pmET CNN show that is in deep decline; the personality whose contract is up next year with the murky future; the 76-year-old who hosts an “old” program.
But what jumped out the most was a quote from Tom Dougherty that only loosely referred to King personally, and more broadly about CNN as a whole. It essentially asks: Who are you, CNN?
It’s fair to believe that we’re weeks away from getting the first peek at what that is. As Jon Klein and other execs are tasked with replacing Campbell Brown, who was granted release from her contract last week, the decision about what to put at 8pmET will be a good first indicator of who CNN ‘is for’ and who ‘they are not for.’
We laid out the options, but that’s just for 8pmET. If King is really heading toward, at the least, a changed, non-prime time role with CNN, that’s now two hours the network has to transform. Whatever they pick, it has to be a firm pick. As “some employees” told the NYT, “there is a tone-deafness at 9 p.m., evinced last week when an interview with Mick Jagger was shown on a busy primary election night. This week Mr. King covered Lindsay Lohan’s court case one night and the gulf oil spill the next, so viewers do not know what to expect.”
CNN may still be making money, but its brand is at a crossroads.
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