CNN is turning some of the lights out on its efforts to produce morning news.
The network is revamping its entire A.M. schedule as the Warner Bros. Discovery-based cable news outlet continues to grapple with poor ratings.
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Poppy Harlow and Phil Mattingly, who co-anchor “CNN This Morning,” will leave the line-up, while Kasie Hunt’s early-morning program will take on an extra hour. Her show, “Early Start,” will run from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., and will take on the “CNN This Morning” title. CNN will then move “CNN News Central,” anchored by John Berman, Kate Bolduan and Sara Sidner, to a 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. slot, with Jim Acosta and Pamela Brown taking over new hours at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The moves mean, as CNN CEO Mark Thompson said in a note to staffers Monday, that “we will no longer produce morning programming in New York and will be disbanding the team that currently produces CNN This Morning in that city. Our New York-based primetime and weekend programming will continue.” Thompson said CNN would find new roles for Harlow and Mattingly. Mattingly has been told he will have a New York-based role, but people familiar with the matter suggested Harlow and CNN are in ongoing talks. The current morning plans were put into place. quickly. Anchors were said to have been informed of the revamp on Sunday.
Mattingly recently moved his large family to New York for the assignment, and Harlow has served as a steady presence in mornings despite an era of behind-the-scenes chaos at the network under its owner, Warner Bros. Discovery.
The decision appears to bring to an end a years-long effort by CNN to run a New York-based morning program that tried to compete directly with A.M. behemoths like “Today” and “Good Morning America” as well as more direct counterparts like Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
CNN has slogged its way through years of failed A.M. efforts that range from “American Morning” to “Starting Point.” In 2013, former CNN chief Jeff Zucker tried to give the effort a shot in the arm by launching “New Day” with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira. The show, he said at the time, “reminds me of when we put together the ‘Today’ show team in 1996, with Katie and Matt,” a reference to the powerhouse morning-show pair of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer that propelled the NBC program to ratings heights. Under Cuomo and a different co-anchor, Alisyn Camerota, the show gained traction, particularly during Donald Trump’s time in the White House. Later, Berman and Brianna Keilar took the reins of the show.
When Warner Bros. Discovery came in, however, it tried to inject a calmer tone into the programming, and a new CNN chief, Chris Licht, attempted to launch a new trio in the A.M: Harlow, Don Lemon and Katilan Collins. The group failed to gel. Lemon was eventually fired from CNN after a long career and Collins was dispatched to primetime, leaving Harlow to soldier on.
The current edition of “CNN This Morning” will end its run in the next few weeks.
Brown will start in her new hour after a return from maternity leave, and Wolf Blitzer will take the reins of the our until she is ready.
There was no immediate word on how CNN’s plans might affect other areas of distribution. “CNN This Morning” was also streamed on the company’s new CNN Max product and has also run on HLN, its one-time sister cable outlet. Warner Bros. Discovery was running “CNN This Morning” on HLN, now largely devoted to repeats of the series “Forensic Files,” as a replacement for that network’s own long-running A.M. program, “Morning Express,” led by anchor Robin Meade in one form or another for more than two decades. Now there is no signature morning-show format on either network.
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