CNN has been the gold standard in cable news since its inception in 1980—but lately its ratings lately have been closer to scrap metal. In fact, a recent report had CNN dead last among the cable news networks in prime-time viewership, behind Fox News, MSNBC, and even its own sister network, Headline News.
CNN’s defenders might say the network just hasn’t sunk as low into partisan bickering and scandal-mongering as its competitors, that its cool-headed, even-handed, multi-sourced, downright journalist approach lends it a certain amount of prestige. Maybe so… but prestige, as they say, don’t pay the bills.
So we’re volunteering nine unsolicited ideas on how CNN might be able to pull in more eyeballs. Sure, some of these might lower their prestige factor a bit. (OK, all of them will. But hey, we’re all about giving the people what they want!!
In Touchscreen Weekly
Everybody loves those fancy Smart Board maps CNN flaunted during last year’s election. But since all precincts finished reporting a while ago, the Magic Wall is kinda going to waste. So maybe CNN should use all that nifty touch-screen technology to analyze something all of us, or most of us care about deeply: celebrity relationships! Picture John King tapping away at it now: “Well, you’re right, Wolf, Robert Pattinson *was* with Kristin Stewart. But recent reports have him moving over to Emilie de Ravin up here…”
Add Some Spice to Amanpour
Yes, Christiane Amanpour is a respected, insightful reporter on international affairs. But she doesn’t do great with the teen girl demographic. (Rory Gilmore excepted, of course.) So we’re thinking they should get some writers in from ‘The Hills’ to sex up the show by introducing Christiane’s bad-seed sister, Jessika. So what if she looks a little like LC. She travels to distant war-torn countries to steal boyfriends and make catty comments—she’s the international reporter you love to hate.
Crossfire—To The Death!
CNN canned its nightly debate show Crossfire back in 2005. But the other cable news networks are proving that nothing draws in viewers like people yelling over each other. So we say bring Crossfire back—but with a twist. Why not take advantage of the sudden ascent of Ultimate Fighting, and make Crossfire half-words, half-fists? Watch James Carville and Bill Bennett debate Obama’s health care plan… then settle it in the Octagon!
Anderson, You Look Mahvelous
Let’s talk about Anderson Cooper’s hair, shall we? Yes, the Silver Fox has gotten a lot of mileage out of his sleek gray ‘do. But when times are tough, you’ve got to adapt. He could switch to a platinum blonde dye job, or maybe grow it out into an Adam Lambert-like cut. Viewers could even vote on what look they want Cooper to rock next. We’ll tell you this much: If “Carrot Top-style red afro” ever comes up as an option, we’re voting early and often.
Sí, Señor Dobbs
CNN host Lou Dobbs’ strong stance against illegal immigration has thrust him into the headline news. But Spanish-language programming is growing by leaps and bounds in this country. We’re thinking Lou might benefit from a co-host, someone younger and hipper, someone who can soften him up. We’re thinking Chelsea Handler’s sidekick, Chuy. He’s likable, funny and loyal. “I didnt like ms chelsea before but then she hired me and now i clap and cheer for her,” Chuy once blogged. “If she ever fires me well then i will stop liking her again.”
The “C” Is For Celebs!
VH1 and E! have reinvigorated their brands by filling their airtime with a slew of questionable “celebrities.” Maybe it’s time for CNN to follow their lead. Don’t you want to know what “Skippy” from ‘Family Ties’ thinks about the troop buildup in Afghanistan? Or they could give Gary Coleman his own 5-minute newscast, and call it “News Shorts.” Ba-dum-CHING! We’ll be here all night, folks.
Let Larry Loose
Larry King’s been interviewing newsmakers since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. (That’s how he’d put it, anyway). So he must have decades’ worth of juicy stories to tell, right? We’re picturing something along the lines of “Larry King Live… After Dark”: Larry in a comfy chair with a cigar and a glass of Scotch, dishing on what Sinatra was *really* like. The YouTube potential alone is off the charts.
Blitzer… Wolf Blitzer
As dire as things look for CNN these days, they do have one valuable asset: Wolf Blitzer’s name. Let’s face it—the man clearly has the coolest name ever. So if they ever get desperate, they could always auction off Wolf’s name live on the air. Hey, we’re willing to bid fifty bucks for it right now. (From then on, sadly, Wolf will have to be known as “Herman Plotz.”) While they’re at it, they should auction off Wolf’s beard, too… that thing is solid.
Election Night ’09!
Okay, this one is a bit unethical… and possibly illegal. But to get their numbers back to fall 2008 levels, we could see CNN faking an entire 2009 presidential election. C’mon, most people wouldn’t know the difference. And we’re pretty sure John McCain’s available for some more town hall debates. You splice in some file footage of Obama, maybe even throw in Ross Perot as a 3rd party spoiler. Boom! Ratings jackpot.
Any more bright ideas on how to give CNN a ratings bump? Shout it out in the Comments.