NEW YORK (AP) — CNN announced on Thursday it is remaking its morning lineup and will bring Soledad O’Brien back as host of a “conversational ensemble” show beginning next year.
O’Brien’s program is set to air on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET.
Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin will be hosts of a news show that will air from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., the network said. Banfield, most recently at ABC News, played a prominent role at MSNBC a decade ago. Sambolin has worked in local news in Chicago.
CNN’s “American Morning,” where O’Brien worked from 2003-2007, has struggled competitively. Conversational shows “Fox & Friends” on Fox News Channel and “Morning Joe” on MSNBC do better in ratings and buzz, and CNN is often eclipsed by its sister channel HLN with Robin Meade in the morning.
Since former co-hosts John Roberts and Kiran Chetrey left “American Morning” in the past year, the network has experimented with other approaches and anchors, adding more business news and a greater story count.
“There’s a real opportunity to do a show that has more thoughtful conversations,” O’Brien said on Thursday. She said her model is less the type of talk featured on the other cable morning shows, and more the topics that she’s covered in documentaries on topics like education and race.
O’Brien will be the host, with a combination of regular and occasional or one-time panelists, said Ken Jautz, CNN’s executive vice president in charge of the domestic network. Although other cable networks have conversational shows, Jautz said they’ve left enough room for CNN to do something different.
“We think there’s an opportunity in the morning to be more broad in the news we present and not narrow-cast on domestic political conversations,” he said.
The earlier show will likely be faster-paced with a greater concentration on the news of the day, he said. The new shows will launch sometime next year.
Besides her work at “American Morning,” O’Brien spent time at the “Today” show on NBC.
Shannon High, who has worked at “Morning Joe” and “The Dylan Ratigan Show” on MSNBC, will join CNN to be executive producer of both morning programs, the network said.
CNN also said that Ali Velshi will begin hosting a daily business hour on its international network, as well as contributing reporting for the domestic channel.
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