Silence Is Golden for Lightning-Struck CNN
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, June 24, 2004; Page C07
A lightning strike at its Atlanta headquarters left CNN without audio for nearly half an hour Monday afternoon.
And yet the cable news network managed to average nearly as many viewers as rival MSNBC in that time.
The outage occurred between 1:03 and 1:27 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research's records. That was smack in the middle of a town-hall-style segment from Dubai called "The Arab Pulse," hosted by CNN's Jim Clancy and featuring prominent journalists in the Arab world discussing the Iraq conflict and the war on terrorism.
CNN continued to telecast the live segment without sound, putting a "technical difficulties" bug on the screen after the first commercial break.
After CNN lost audio, its audience plunged by nearly 300,000 viewers from the 420,000 who had been watching between 12:30 and 1 p.m., when the network was still offering the convenience of sound.
Still, from 1 to 1:30 p.m., CNN averaged 121,000 viewers; simultaneously, 139,000 people watched "MSNBC Live" with anchors Alison Stewart, Laurie Jennings and Sam Shane talking about former president Bill Clinton's autobiography, the South Korean then held hostage in Iraq, and the murder trial of Scott Peterson.
Among the lessons learned: It appears 18-to-34-year-olds would rather watch CNN without sound than MSNBC with sound. In that Monday half-hour, about twice as many viewers in that demographic were tuned to CNN as MSNBC.
The number of CNN viewers who do not mind, perhaps even prefer, getting their news without actually having to know what's going on would seem to also include about 30,000 18-to-49-year-olds, 25,000 25-to-54-year-olds (the Holy Grail of news channels) and an impressive 71,000 viewers 55 years and older.
Events like this may explain why new MSNBC chief Rick Kaplan recently turned his focus from the network's prime-time lineup to its daytime schedule.
The exodus continues among network chiefs at Discovery Networks.
Now it's Rick Rodriguez who's leaving his post, as head of Travel Channel, after barely a year on the job.
Rodriguez, a 10-year veteran of Discovery Networks, is heading to Southern California for personal reasons, a Discovery rep told The TV Column.
Rodriguez will officially bow out at the end of July and Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks US, will add Travel Channel to the list of Discovery channels in need of a chief suit. Campbell, who joined the company in May 2002, has been cleaning house ever since.
In March, he named former BBC2 controller Jane Root executive vice president and general manager of Discovery Channel, replacing Clark Bunting, who was promoted to executive VP of Discovery Networks.
Campbell also is still looking for a general manager/executive VP for Animal Planet, replacing Michael Cascio, who stepped down in December; the rep said Campbell's close on that one but did not elaborate.
Campbell's also still looking to replace Bob Reid, the general manager of Discovery Health, who exited five weeks after Cascio. Eileen O'Neill, Discovery Health programming vice president, has been filling in.
Rodriguez has had the top job at Travel Channel just since May 2003; Campbell named him to replace Steven Cheskin, an 18-year Discovery veteran who had the job for three years. It was Cheskin who introduced viewers to Travel Channel's best-known program, "World Poker Tour," in April 2003.
Rodriguez formerly was executive vice president of content for Discovery Networks International, overseeing all programming, production, Internet and interactive assets, as well as on-air promotion for the company's various international networks.
In 2002, Rodriguez was involved in the reorganization of Discovery's European operations while serving as acting general manager of Discovery Networks, Europe, Middle East and Africa. From 1999 to 2001 he was senior vice president, international programming and production, and from 1997-1999 vice president, programming for Discovery Networks Latin America/Iberia. Rodriguez joined the company in 1994 as director for Discovery Channel Latin America/Iberia.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company