We've Got Hollywood Covered

CNN Defends Ratings Strategy at TCA

Cabler adding things up as it fends off rivals.

If you can’t beat em, try adding up your audience.


That’s CNN’s approach as it faces the huge ratings success of its rivals. Fox News is now the second-most-watched network in all of cable, and the once-fledgling MSNBC is now challenging Turner-owned CNN in the key 25-54 demo.


But representing CNN on Turner’s three-hour Television Critics Assn. panel Tuesday in Pasadena, network president Jon Klein noted that his channel has the advantage in total reach thanks to greater broadband traffic, with 117.2 million people tuning into CNN each week on some platform or another, according to Nielsen “fusion” data.


MSNBC comes in second place based on that cumulative benchmark with 99.4 million “users” each week; Fox News is third with 98.2 million.


As far as viewers of traditional television go, CNN remains way behind Fox News, but it’s touting growth nonetheless, up 16% in total audience and 9% in adults 25-54 since the election year of 2008, an up year for all of cable news.


“You’ve got one network on the right and one on the left, and we’re the only one that is based on reporting news,” Klein said. That’s really working for us. Our journalistic quality is higher than it’s ever been.”


Of course, that integrity isn’t without challenges. On Tuesday, TV bloggers on hand at TCA asked Klein about the recent work of correspondent Lou Dobbs, who seems to have crossed lines while reporting on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship.


On CNN, Dobbs has reported that the president indeed has a Hawaiian birth certificate — controversy over. Yet, on his own radio show, Dobbs continues to report on the doubt held by some that the President is in fact a U.S. citizen.


“All we can control is what is reported on our air,” Klein said. “What Lou does on his own radio show is not in our purview. But he is not exploring the issue of whether Barack Obama is an American citizen. That’s a dead issue. But there is this phenomenon of people still not believing that, and that’s what Lou is reporting on – the flap.”


Also at Turner’s day at TCA, George Lopez talked about launching himself into the late-night race on TBS starting in November.


The comedian joined Turner entertainment president Michael Wright and executive producer Jim Paratore to explain the strategy of launching a show into a time period that seems more crowded than ever.


“I’m on at 11 p.m., which is a really beautiful position to be in,” said Lopez, noting that most broadcast outlets are in news and in-between late-night comedy offerings at that time.


Beyond that, Lopez thinks there is a robust audience of color that hasn’t been served in the time period since the 1990s. African-American comedian Wanda Sykes has also been given a weekly late-night show, which will launch on Saturday nights this fall on Fox.


“I was on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ 16 times 20 years ago,” Lopez said. “It’s time to take that thing and move it to the next level.”


For his part, Wright believes Lopez will benefit by running on an all-comedy network such as TBS. “We’ve got comedy leading into this four nights a week,” he explained. “Nobody else in late night can say that.”


In creating the promotion reel for the show that was presented Tuesday, Lopez got a little help from President Barack Obama, who briefly appears in the video segment, telling the comedian, “George, you need to change late night. That’s the kind of change I can believe in.”


“I consider the 44th president of the United States a good friend of mine,” Lopez added. “He’s practically Latino. He lives in a house that’s not his, and he has his mother-in-law living (there) to help to raise his kids.”