Contact Us

All Things CNN is an independent blog that has no affiliation with CNN.

If you wish to contact us with tips, comments or suggestions our email is

To contact a specific CNN program please check our CNN programs link at the top of this page.

To contact CNN
click here.


All Things CNN
is now on Twitter.
twitter / AllThingsCNN

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


We don’t offer much opinion here at ATC, we try to just keep you up to date on the latest programming, personalities and ratings, where it concerns CNN. But occasionally something catches our eye, or our ear, and we just can’t let go of it without a little closer examination.

A former producer at CNN’s American Morning has been blogging about the trials and tribulations behind the scenes of the program. This producer, Chez, was fired several weeks ago. I mentioned this first at our sister blog, All Things Anderson, on Valentine’s Day. Now the executive producer of American Morning, Ed Litvak, also has been dismissed.

If we are to believe the producer, and I do, Litvak was doomed to failure, practically from the beginning. Decisions concerning American Morning were, and still are, being made by Jon Klein. If they worked (and the jury is still out on that one) Klein would be a genius. If they didn’t work it would be Litvak’s fault and he would be shown the door (as he has been).

In Chez’s words “As far as I know, Ed Litvak gave Jon Klein exactly what he wanted; during my tenure as a producer on AM I never saw anything that would make me believe otherwise. Once again, I may not have agreed with Ed on many things, but I never doubted that it was always Klein running the show.And yet when all Klein's big ideas failed, guess who wound up taking the blame and losing his job?”

So is Klein running AM? It’s hard to say, but if he is, he’s not doing a great job. In the key demos (ADULTS 25-54) American Morning's increases over the last year are within the Nielsen statistical error range - +/-3%. that translates to zero growth in the most desired demo. As our Ratings Guru has told me many times, news skews old and old is not where the advertising money is.

There were a few other items of interest on Chez’s blog. Here are some examples:
“He (Litvak) was forced to constantly juggle duties while making sure to placate the various egos, each of whom believed that his or her wants and needs should be top priority.”

"I watched my bosses literally stand in the middle of the newsroom and ask, "What can we do to not lead with Iraq?" -- the reason being that Iraq, although an important story, wasn't always a surefire ratings draw. "

"I watched the media in general do anything within reason to scare the hell out of the American public -- to convince people that they were about to be infected by the bird flu, poisoned by the food supply, or eaten by sharks. I marveled at our elevation of the death of Anna Nicole Smith to near-mythic status and our willingness to let the airwaves be taken hostage by every permutation of opportunistic degenerate from a crying judge to a Hollywood hanger-on with an emo haircut. I watched qualified, passionate people worked nearly to death while mindless talking heads were coddled."

And a conversation he relayed that he had with to former Internet correspondent Jacki Schechner:
"Think about how frustrated and disillusioned most of the American Morning staff is."Not simply frustrated and disillusioned, but outright miserable.
And then she reminded me that in the past year-and-a-half, nearly 20 mid to high-level people have left American Morning; many of them quit with no other job to go to -- they just wanted out of the business."

There is more to read at Chez's blog...both on this topic and others. He writes with humor and an engaging style that warrants a read, when you have the time.

One quick bit of business and then I'll turn you over to our Ratings Guru. We have changed our email address for All Things CNN. The new address is , please add us to your address books.
That's it for me this week. ~ Phebe

We Covered All That Last Week and Over the Weekend!

We can just look at regular program performance this past week having already covered all of the above on ATC and ATA. 60 Minutes was even covered last night on ATA. So we’re just looking at regular performance from last week, right? Sort of…

I am sure all cable news/information channel executives are doing cartwheels in the hallways with the audiences being posted for the primary and debate coverage – and they should. Viewers are tuning in, in record numbers OF ALL AGES to debates, primary coverage, analysis of both political categories and many times spill over and add to the audience performance to coverage on additional nights. While we can’t point directly to these political events driving audience on other nights, there are some nights that do increase, and there would be no other reason. However, once again, to all the blog sites that went after CNN for not holding onto debate audiences with regular programming the next night – no cable channel can achieve that – so don’t hold them to a higher standard than anyone else.
While each of the cable channels covering the political landscape can really thank Senators Clinton, Obama and McCain for the up tick in their viewership -- coverage, breadth and depth of reporting, context and perspective are critical elements which comprise these programs. CNN is still the leader at the end of February in coverage of primaries and debate audience based on Nielsen Media Research.

I’ve seen every headline from each cable channel touting how much audiences have increased in February, and unless I have the actual time period numbers and where they are sourced from, I cannot guarantee the accuracy. We analyze the numbers on a weekly basis in primetime, so you have a very good idea who is winning audience and why. So I’ll leave the press releases to the other blogging sites. Accurate sourcing is critical to me as a research nerd, and while I would like to print all of the superlatives, I can’t without seeing written verification. I will say this about Digital performance. There are several sources to derive the number of site users (called “Uniques”) and the length of the visits (called “Engagements”). These are critical numbers in order to sell cross-platform advertising and ad support for channel websites. There are several sources for this information, including Nielsen, but the largest and industry standard is COMSCORE. Does it mean they are better than the rest? No, just the preferred measurement company. All channels use different companies for digital measurement, so I can’t honestly tell you which channel can be #1 in these audience measured areas. Their sampling differs from company to company, so comparisons would not be fair. Suffice it to say News/Information channels site visits are through the roof in February due to interest in primary, debate and political coverage as are straight news sites such as the broadcast network news websites, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Even sorting through the primetime numbers to extrapolate regular programming, there are some areas you want to be aware of, as well as what is happening with regular programming.


Fox News: 566,000
CNN: 294,000
MSNBC: 434,000

Other than a higher than normal Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly posted typical audience figures for the 8PM hour. CNN’s ELECTION CENTER benefited from primary coverage as well as an usually strong Monday performance. COUNTDOWN, other than Friday, posted very strong numbers throughout the week with heavy concentration of pre and post debate and primary analysis (yes, even though they didn’t carry the debate this past week).

Courtesy: CNN; Google Images

Fox News: 375,000*
CNN: 375,000**
MSNBC: 194,000+

FOX News and CNN were tied in the 9PM hour with LKL only airing three times in the week – but posting an exceptional performance with Jon Stewart on Wednesday night – over ½ million viewers tuned in to see the Comedy Central/Oscar Host with Larry – a very high number for LKL. MSNBC typically took third in the time period with Dan Abrams only airing three nights for the week.

Courtesy: CNN

Fox News: 347,000
CNN: 665,000
MSNBC: 301,000#

Yup, since CNN coded post-debate analysis on Thursday as a special AC360 and primary coverage on Tuesday night as well, it was a big week for the CNN 10PM program. Even if I eliminate those nights and take the three day average with a weak Friday performance, AC360 still tops GRETA by 20,000 Adults 25-54. MSNBC programmed a special post-debate COUNTDOWN (with a very strong delivery and competitive to GRETA’s performance that night) on Thursday, but since it wasn’t coded their normal “Special Investigation,” it could not be counted in the time period average.

When CNN can post the #2 cable program with the Democratic Texas Debate and the #3 program with the Special AC360 following the debate, it’s a good week for Cable Program Rankings. It’s an even better when AC360 is the strongest program in all of primetime (8PM-11PM) for the entire week.

Yup, there are cartwheels in the hallways and a lot of “high-fives.”

*4 Day Average; primary aired Tuesday.
**3 Day Average; primary aired Tuesday; debate aired Thursday.
+3 Day Average; did not air Friday; primary aired Tuesday.
#3 Day Average; special Countdown aired Thursday; primary coverage aired Tuesday.
^Courtesy Nielsen Media Research; Adults 25-54, Live + Same Day (LS); Fast Track Nationals.

All content, unless otherwise cited, is © All Things CNN and may not be used without consent of the blog administrator.


J in LA said...

Phebe - interesting post.

All of you know by now, I'm from the "hard news" world and while a sprinkling of features, human interest stories and fun every once in a while is okay for a news broadcast, the issue for me is the production staff's (and this includes management and anchors) unwritten oath to keeping their opinions to themselves and upholding news as a "public trust."
There is nothing that should be more protected than this "public trust." News Divisions were charged with presenting objective content with occasional commentary done by correspondents/anchors and strictly labeled as such. News Divisions were held to a different standard than Entertainment divisions at the networks due to their responsibility to inform, NOT form opinions for viewers.

Have Cable News and Information channels taken this oath? Well in some programming, but certainly they have established different rules and many times send mixed messages to the viewers as to who they are and what they stand for. I don't mind that as long as you are very clear to the viewer what they should expect from program content. There are several programs that "blur" the lines, calling themselves "news" but in fact they are "information/opinion" programs.

There is not one media company that does not expressly require employees to sign several documents that state that any content or ideas created during their employment are owned by the company - and this does not just refer to working hours. And further, most news contracts have additional clauses in them to deter opinions by news personnel (on-air or off-air) slipping into the public domain. Most in hard news personnel would cringe at the thought of having their views and personal beliefs on public display - it goes against their "DNA" of being objective. And how can you be objective during your work day, but not in off hours in a public forum such as the internet? Where does the line stop? What situation would give one the incentive just to push that line, even a little bit?

This also includes companies holding the right to approve interviews that could include topics of company standards, policy and positions on matters that may/may not be covered by the media. Further, they include "no compete" clauses and no ability to hire away personnel to your new company should you leave - usually for a period of at least a year.

These documents while vague are pretty comprehensive and do not allow for the opinion that "I am committed to you during my working hours but what I do outside is my own business." In a perfect world, we would all love that luxury, but since news employees are defacto representatives of the company even outside of hours, actions are considered a reflection of the company. Many contracts also have morals and abuse clauses to protect the company so that they may dismiss otherwise productive employees if they are involved in what would be considered inappropriate or illegal behavior. "Nom De Plumes" are not enough protection for the company and I find it hard to believe this producer was naive not to know that.

I take a hard view because I have been placed in situations outside of company hours with news stories that require me to act as an employee. In news, there aren't really any "off hours."

Are Executive Producers held accountable for a broadcast no matter whose ideas or program structure they are charged with carrying out? Yes, and there is no question if a program isn't performing to the level in which a company believes it should, the EP pays the price. That person is responsible for the broadcast and the staff. Was Ed Litvak "thrown under the bus?" Probably, but in real terms, American Morning was also getting trounced in the KEY DEMO ratings by Fox and Friends. The AM time period is the one of the toughest and most competitive to program - just ask CBS News having been third for many years going up against Today and GMA.

This dismissal appears to have more to it than what is on the surface, but unless we were in the room, we don't know the truth.

Coming into a very competitive ratings season, CNN wants to win. Not knowing what your producers are up to on the internet and Jon Klein being in charge of Domestic news gathering and on record for wanting to win was a "no win" situation waiting to happen for that producer and his boss.

I can't speak to whether or not Jon Klein micromanaged the program. I can tell you that it will drive the Producers crazy if in fact top management is involved in a "hands on" (what we nicely call micromanaging in TV) way after giving direction - and that is not a good thing. One should honor the titles they give the personnel, set milestones and goals and be encouraging and helpful in programming and production needs. Sound utopian? It is, in television.

Given these two factors, Jon Klein's actions were pretty predictable. The question is, who fixes the program or who will be the next scapegoat?
J in LA

Anonymous said...

J you are so right. I think production needs to
be better for American Morning. Presentation
is key. Somehow I don't think JK is hands on
with AM. I have a feeling as soon as Campbell
Brown's program is off and running sometime
in March something will be done with AM.
I say maybe around May or June changes
will come to the morning show.