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TV Column
Posted at 06:38 PM ET, 11/03/2011

CNN has an even better idea for its morning show — Soledad O’Brien. Yes, again.


CNN is remaking its morning lineup, returning Soledad O'Brien to a prominent role. (Charles Sykes - AP)
CNN has a better idea for its morning show.

Yes, another better idea.

It will star Soledad O’Brien.

Yes, again.

The cable news network announced Thursday that it’s launching a “new format of news and conversation in the morning,” which will include a 7 to 9 a.m. show anchored by Soledad O’Brien.

O’Brien’s new gig — which will debut next year — will be a “conversational ensemble program” that will explore “top issues of the day” while “opening the conversation to people from all walks of life.”

But she’s not giving up her day job as a special correspondent working on CNN documentaries.

Since 2001, the cable news network has telecast “American Morning” from 6 to 9 a.m.

Originally the show was hosted by Paula Zahn. Then CNN had a better idea and Bill Hemmer was named Zahn’s co-anchor in 2002.

Then Paula jumped to prime time and, after a couple fill-ins, Soledad became Bill’s co-host in 2003.

Then CNN had a better idea: In ’05, Bill left CNN and was replaced on the show by Miles O’Brien.

Then CNN had a better idea in 2007 and replaced Miles and Soledad with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

Then John left CNN and the network had a better idea: Have TJ Holmes and others rotate as co-hosts with Kiran.

Then TJ left.

Then Kiran left.

These days, “American Morning” is hosted by Ali Velshi and Christine Romans, as well as Carol Costello.

We might have missed a few people.

Anyway, this year, “American Morning” is averaging just less than 300,000 viewers. For comparison’s sake, Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends” is averaging 1 million viewers; MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is averaging 450,000 viewers; and HLN’s “Morning Express” is averaging about 320,000.

The zenith of the “American Morning” ratings trajectory came in 2003, when the show averaged about 640,000 viewers. Back then, it was hosted by — oh, look at that! Soledad O’Brien! And Bill Hemmer, who’s now at Fox News Channel.

Anyway, the latest Better Idea has Soledad’s new show starting each weekday morning, one hour later than “American Morning” (which now begins at 6).

Under the latest Better Idea, CNN will also debut a 5-7 a.m. program anchored by onetime MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield. Banfield will be joined by the NBC Chicago station’s “NBC5 News Today” show, Zoraida Sambolin. Why do we keep seeing Hoda and Kathie Lee?

“This is an exciting time to be re-launching our morning show, with the morning television audience more up for grabs than it has been in years,” Mark Whitaker, the CNN executive vice president and managing editor, said in Thursday’s announcement. Before joining CNN in January, Whitaker was at NBC.

Charged with executive-producing both shows is Shannon High, who most recently was executive producer of development for NBC’s Peacock Productions. Before that, High served as MSNBC’s vice president of daytime program development, and vice president and managing editor. At MSNBC, she developed “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” and oversaw “Morning Joe” and daytime news, CNN noted.

By  |  06:38 PM ET, 11/03/2011

 
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