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CNN cancels Eliot Spitzer's prime-time program

Eliot Spitzer was bounced from CNN's prime-time lineup on Wednesday, his tenure as a TV host lasting less than half of his time as New York governor.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Eliot Spitzer was bounced from CNN's prime-time lineup on Wednesday, his tenure as a TV host lasting less than half of his time as New York governor.

CNN reshuffled its schedule to add a new program by former CNBC personality Erin Burnett, move Anderson Cooper's flagship newscast into the tough 8 p.m. time slot and eliminate Spitzer's "In the Arena" program.

CNN has asked Spitzer about staying with the network as a commentator but no decision has been made, said Ken Jautz, executive vice president of CNN/US. Spitzer released a statement referring to his time at CNN in the past tense.

"We engaged serious people in conversations about national and global issues in a way that was informative and challenging," Spitzer said. "I believe that we provided diverse and valuable perspectives during the show's tenure. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CNN."

Spitzer, who resigned in March 2008 a little more than two years into his term as New York governor amid a prostitution scandal, began his nightly show on CNN in October. At first he was paired on "Parker/Spitzer" with conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, who left in February. The show was then renamed "In the Arena" with Spitzer the lead personality.

It's in a tough time slot, where Campbell Brown, Connie Chung and Paula Zahn all found rough going before him at CNN. Spitzer's show averaged 595,000 viewers for the first six months of the year, compared to dominant competitor Bill O'Reilly at Fox News Channel, who averaged just under 3 million viewers. MSNBC, first with Keith Olbermann and then with Lawrence O'Donnell, averaged 984,000, the Nielsen Co. said.

Spitzer's average was actually up 8 percent over what the network had in that time slot over the first six months of 2010, but the trends were ominous. The show's June average was 457,000 viewers, while Nancy Grace on sister network HLN had 1.5 million viewers in June with her focus on the Casey Anthony trial.

"There has been improvement for that show but we wanted to see it do more," Jautz said. "We wanted to see it do better."

Cooper's 10 p.m. newscast has been CNN's most successful evening program, so it will now get the test at 8. Jautz called it CNN's flagship news program and said it made sense to air it at the critical prime-time hour. It also provides a contrast to commentary-focused shows with O'Reilly, O'Donnell, Grace and Keith Olbermann on Current TV, he said.

CNN will rerun Cooper's show at 10 p.m. on the East Coast for viewers used to it at that hour, Jautz said. He said it wasn't a sign of retrenchment for CNN to have a regular rerun in prime-time, and that Cooper will remake part or all of his show at 10 p.m. should breaking news warrant. Cooper's show will switch into that time slot on Aug. 8.

John King's current 7 p.m. show will move up an hour to make way for Burnett then. Wolf Blitzer's two-hour "Situation Room" will air from 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Piers Morgan's show continues at 9 p.m.

CNN is shooting for a late September premiere for Burnett's new program, which doesn't have a name. Despite her business background at CNBC, her CNN show will be general interest, Jautz said.

"It will make use of her strength in that area, but it will not be a business show," he said.

Moving up the political shows by an hour will take advantage of breaking news then, particularly heading into an election year, he said.


HLN and CNN are owned by Time Warner Inc.; MSNBC is controlled by Comcast Corp.; Fox is a unit of News Corp.