After days of rumors and an uncomfortable pairing on the late-night cable news schedule following Hurricane Katrina, CNN parted ways with Aaron Brown and gave Anderson Cooper sole possession of the flagship news time slot.
The announcement brings an end to Brown’s job at the network and further raises Cooper’s profile to the face of the new CNN. The new “Anderson Cooper 360” will run from 10 p.m.-midnight beginning Monday, with executive producer David Doss and a crew that will include staffers from “360” and “NewsNight With Aaron Brown.”
Brown had once been the star of primetime for CNN, anchoring much of the breaking-news coverage and hosting “NewsNight” at 10 p.m. ET. But after Hurricane Katrina brought further attention to Cooper, Brown had been reduced to the role of in-studio host while showcasing his younger colleague. In an interview Wednesday, CNN-U.S. president Jon Klein said CNN decided to build its primetime schedule around “the two tentpoles that have the greatest potential and the greatest momentum”: “360” and “The Situation Room.”
“When you look at that landscape, there was little opportunity for Aaron,” Klein said, adding that it was a “mutual decision.” Efforts to reach Brown weren’t successful Wednesday, but he was on vacation this week. Brown, who signed a new contract in the fall, reportedly was signed through 2007. Klein declined comment on contractual matters.
“There’s no reason to delay making this move. We’ve got the pieces in place,” Klein said. “We’ve got a two-hour show up and running that Anderson has been co-anchoring, and we’ve got ’The Situation Room.”’
“Situation Room,” anchored by Wolf Blitzer, takes over the 7 p.m. hour once occupied by “360.” It will remain a three-hour program but begin at 4 p.m. instead of the 3 p.m. slot that it debuted in against Fox News’ “Studio B” in early August. After two hours, Blitzer will throw to “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and then return for the last hour at 7 p.m.
“It gives us a four-hour block of real news and information, and you cannot find four hours that will make for a more satisfying meal than that on television,” Klein said.
Klein sees a real opportunity for CNN between 10 p.m. and midnight; he said that the extension of “NewsNight” to two hours showed there’s an appetite for news in the time period, particularly after 11 p.m.
Brown was joined by Cooper, reporting from the hurricane zone, in the aftermath of Katrina. Cooper’s impassioned reporting from the Gulf Coast won a number of viewers, and it showed between 10 p.m. and noon -- 2.8 million viewers tuned in from Aug. 29-Sept. 4, according to Nielsen Media Research. Those numbers remained strong (1.1 million-1.9 million through September) but, as the expanded “NewsNight” continued, fell. Brown’s last week of “NewsNight” averaged 782,000 viewers.