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“Sadly, CNN is resorting to D-listers to fill its lineup for CNN+. Brian Stelter is one of their poorest ratings performers and a regular source of embarrassment,” a longtime media executive told Fox News Digital.
CNN+ was the brainchild of recently ousted CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who is no longer around to oversee its scheduled spring launch. Since Zucker was forced to resign earlier this month, there have been reports that CNN’s streaming service is already causing problems for the company. The New York Post reported CNN insiders admit “its programming is of such poor quality, it is unlikely to generate much buzz,” and Discovery could scale it back once the company takes over CNN when an expected merger with WarnerMedia is finalized later this year.
Stelter’s one of several current CNN anchors who will do double duty.
“I’m coming to CNN+ with a weekday program called ‘Reliable Sources Daily,’” Stelter announced.
The traditional version of Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN has gone 24 straight telecasts without cracking 900,000 viewer. The last time “Reliable Sources” managed to draw one million viewers was on Aug. 29, 2021, when CNN bounced between breaking news coverage of Hurricane Ida and Stelter’s program.
During February alone, viewership for Stelter’s media affairs program is down 43% among total viewers and 65% among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54 through two episodes, compared to the same month in 2021. The ratings-challenged program has also gone back-to-back weeks averaging fewer than 100,000 demo viewers.
Basic cable offerings that air on Sundays that have outdrawn “Reliable Sources” so far in 2022 include a repeat of the 1990 made-for-TV film “Gunsmoke: The Last Apache,” Food Network’s “Delicious Miss Brown” and “Girl Meets Farm,” HGTV’s “Fixer to Fabulous,” Investigation Discovery’s “Cold Blooded Alaska,” and reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” on TBS.
“Why anyone would pay a monthly fee for more Brian Stelter is baffling, and raises serious questions about CNN’s streaming strategy,” the media executive added. “What does John Malone think of this?”
Malone, who sits on the Discovery Communications Inc. board of directors and is considered extremely powerful in the industry, said last year that CNN should “actually have journalists” following the merger. The comment resulted in Stelter accusing the Liberty Media chairman of not actually watching the network.
Until the Discovery merger is complete, it’s up to the remaining CNN leadership to program the service that has also given programs to far-left pundits including Jemele Hill and Twitter provocateur Rex Chapman. Fellow progressive host Don Lemon will also host a talk show on the service. Earlier this month, Variety reported CNN+’s launch has been “chaotic” and some shows won’t even be ready by the scheduled launch date.
Stelter, a known Zucker loyalist, has turned a blind eye to many headlines that were far from flattering to his liberal allies in the industry. Despite this, Stelter noted “there are so many compelling stories to cover through a media lens” when explaining why his daily show makes sense. Journalist Glenn Greenwald questioned what CNN executives are thinking with the “business strategy” of giving Stelter even more air time.
“Someone needs to explain the business strategy of taking hosts that everyone can watch for free but few choose to, and putting them behind a paywall and believing people will now pay to watch the same people they ignore when offered for free,” Greenwald tweeted in response to the news.
Grabien Media founder Tom Elliott is baffled by CNN’s programming strategy and feels the network’s parent company needs to step in.
“If CNN’s collapsing ratings weren’t enough to elicit an agonizing reappraisal of their entire situation, the planned rollout of CNN+ surely is,” Elliott told Fox News Digital.
“Rather than using their new subscription-based platform to attempt something new and original that people might actually pay for, the leftover project of Jeff Zucker is instead doubling down on failure. For reasons that defy common sense, CNN apparently thinks that taking their least popular opinionists — Don Lemon & Brian Stelter most notably — and moving them into a less structured and more regular format, will somehow turnaround the network’s cratering business,” Elliott added. “If ever WarnerMedia needed to stage an intervention, now is that time. And I say this as a former CNN fan.”
WarnerMedia did not immediately respond to a series of questions, including whether Zucker created Stelter’s show before he was forced to resign and if WarnerMedia executives have been involved in CNN+.
Discovery did not respond when asked if it will keep the current CNN+ format following the planned merger.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.