CNN is in the process of making radical changes to its troubled morning show “New Day,” individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.
The network’s signature morning show is plagued with bad chemistry, including reports of bickering between its hosts Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira. The show is also stuck in the perennial No. 2 morning ratings spot among cable news networks. What was supposed to be Jeff Zucker‘s reiteration of his exceptionally successful 90s-era “Today,” hosted by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, has instead become a challenge for CNN and the network’s president.
In the current quarter so far, “New Day” has averaged 97,000 viewers in the key demographic Adults 25-54 — a far No. 2 to “Fox and Friends” with its 233,000 demo viewers.
“New Day” has however been able to beat MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in four of the past six months. “Morning Joe” averages 76,000 demo viewers in the distant No. 3 spot and has registered consistent month-over-month declines every month this year. But, how can CNN shrink the huge gap between it and Fox News in the mornings?
In a move to inject new life into “New Day,” insiders told TheWrap that CNN has tested several anchor combinations with and without current host Cuomo — to see what will work.
“They have tried Chris Cuomo with every available woman,” one individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. “And they keep trying ‘New Day’ combinations that use none of the three anchors.”
“New Day” was built around the hiring of Cuomo, a former “GMA” newsreader and “20/20” correspondent at ABC. Zucker paired him with Kate Bolduan, who was a political correspondent at the channel. They were joined by KTLA morning show anchor Michaela Pereira.
Internally, the staff has become angered by the testing since it revolves around Cuomo and they believe Pereira is the only part of the morning trio that works.
“The only success story on that show is Michaela Pereira, who came from a big morning job in L.A., but they keep shoving her to the 11 a.m. timeslot,” the individual said. “Chris is insecure about her, because she is a natural on mornings. It’s her career talent … so they push her aside so he looks bigger.”
Bolduan, who is currently pregnant, hasn’t been included in the anchor testings so far (though she co-hosted “New Day” on Thursday with John Berman, who was filling in for a vacationing Cuomo).
“That speaks for itself,” the insider said of the network’s lack of testing around Bolduan, inferring that her future with the morning show is uncertain.
Testing is being done in other areas of the channel as well. Alisyn Camerota, a former Fox News anchor who was hired in July, has also been tested with other co-anchors. Though CNN said at the time of her hire that Camerota will contribute across CNN until her permanent role is announced, media reporters have speculated that Camerota was hired to join “New Day.” Instead, she has been co-anchoring nights at 10 p.m. with
“They hired Alisyn from Fox and tested her with everyone,” the insider said. “Nothing worked, so now they’ve thrown her in a temporary show at night with Don Lemon, who has become this weird clown.”
Another CNN insider told TheWrap that he disagrees that there’s any problem in finding a spot for Camerota and that the network is testing for future pilots. For example, Politico reported in July that CNN was testing a new show with Camerota, Cuomo and Lemon.
A CNN spokeswoman told TheWrap that “We don’t ever comment on all the pilots we may or may not be shooting.”
But instead of finding a place for Camerota, Zucker has a more pressing problem — shoring up “New Day.”
The morning show was supposed to be his defining achievement at CNN. He had an expensive new set built and brought in a roster of new faces including CNN Los Angeles entertainment reporter Nischelle Turner. She was moved to New York when the show first launched, and provided hourly, on-set entertainment updates. That didn’t work either, and Turner is now only seen on “New Day” if there is a major or breaking entertainment story, such as the death of Robin Williams.
Despite the network’s best efforts, including a splashy launch, handpicked talent by Zucker, and a flashy state-of-the-art set, “New Day’s” inability to close the large gap with “Fox & Friends” has turned the show into CNN’s albatross.