CNN names Kaitlan Collins to fill prime-time vacancy in Chris Cuomo's old slot

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN said Kaitlan Collins will host a new hourlong show at the center of the prime-time lineup, filling a slot left vacant since the firing of Chris Cuomo and as the network's ratings are at a low ebb.

Collins will begin regularly hosting the 9 p.m. Eastern show next month, the network said Wednesday, making the announcement during a Warner Discovery sales presentation to advertisers.

The ex-White House correspondent moderated CNN's town hall with former President Donald Trump last week, but was generally held blameless for criticism the event received.

“She is a smart and gifted journalist who we've all seen hold lawmakers and newsmakers accountable,” CNN Chairman Chris Licht said in a memo to staff members. “She pushes politicians off their talking points, gets real answers — and as everyone who's worked with her knows — breaks a lot of news.”

It's the biggest move by Licht, who became CNN's leader last year, to put his imprint on the prime-time lineup, which has lagged far behind Fox News and MSNBC in viewership.

In continuing Collins’ meteoric rise at CNN, Licht has something in common with his predecessor Jeff Zucker, who noticed and hired Collins full-time based on her occasional guest appearances on CNN. Collins had been working for The Daily Caller, a conservative website launched by Tucker Carlson.

Licht had named Collins to host a revamped morning show with Poppy Harlow and Don Lemon that began last November. With Lemon fired and Collins elevated, Harlow will work with guest anchors until morning changes are announced in the months ahead, Licht said in his memo.

CNN has rotated guest hosts in the evening since December 2021, when Cuomo was fired after the network said he was not forthcoming about help offered to his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At the time, Cuomo hosted CNN's top-rated show.

The network has struggled to gain traction without him. On Monday, for example, CNN averaged 454,000 viewers in the time slot, compared to Rachel Maddow's 2.41 million viewers on MSNBC and Sean Hannity's 1.97 million on Fox, the Nielsen company said.

Last Friday, with Anderson Cooper on duty for a second hour at 9 p.m. and reaching an audience of 293,000, CNN slipped behind the conservative Newsmax network and host Chris Plante's “Right Squad” in viewership, Nielsen said.

CNN last month announced the pairing of Charles Barkley and Gayle King for another prime-time show starting later this year, although that will be once a week.

To the advertisers, CNN tried to increase anticipation by showing clips of King and Barkley. “She's going to be a straight shooter,” Barkley said. “You know I'm going to be a straight shooter.”

In his appearance, Licht emphasized CNN's newsgathering and said it was more important now than ever.

“We prioritize reporting over punditry and separate the news from the noise,” he said.