CNN boss Jeff Zucker, former king of morning shows, can’t fix ‘New Day’ disaster

Media top headlines July 16

A journalist ripping how the Steele dossier was covered, the White House saying it would work with Facebook to flag ‘misinformation’ on COVID-19, and Rep. Jim Clyburn getting Four Pinocchios for his voter ID claim round out today’s media headlines.

CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker rose to prominence overseeing NBC’s “Today” during the Matt Lauer era, but he’s failed to replicate the with his network’s long-suffering morning show “New Day.” 

“Zucker masterminded a successful run for ‘Today’ at NBC … he was less driven at that time to force ideology into every aspect of programming. The ratings for ‘New Day’ are shockingly low, almost at the point where they are merely collecting viewers who are randomly cruising through a channel lineup,” DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News. 

CNN boss Jeff Zucker has failed to bring a successful morning show to the cable network.  (Getty Images)

Zucker took over CNN in January 20 and it didn’t take long for the former “Today” honcho to put his own stamp on the cable network’s morning lineup. To replace a short-lived morning show hosted by left-wing journalist Soledad O’Brien, Zucker created “New Day” with hand-picked anchors Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira, and it debuted with much fanfare by June of that year. 

“New Day” was supposed to emerge as CNN’s flagship morning program, akin to NBC’s highly successful “Today” but with edginess that could only happen on cable. Broadcast production trade publications fawned over the elaborate set design and CNN even enlisted pop music superstar Alicia Keys to perform a promo jingle ahead of its premiere. 

But Zucker’s attempt to create a popular morning show at CNN has been disastrous. “New Day” has never averaged 700,000 viewers for a year and is on pace to finish with fewer than 200,000 viewers among the key demographic of adults age 25-54 for the fourth straight year. 

Eight years and multiple lineup changes later, the show has struggled to remain relevant and has attracted less than 500,000 average viewers for 11 straight weeks. Cuomo, Bolduan and Pereira are long gone, and longtime co-anchor Alisyn Camerota was recently replaced by outspoken liberal Brianna Keilar, who now shares the anchor desk with John Berman. 

“Changing anchors frequently is part of the problem,” McCall said. “Keilar has a rather abrasive and smug style that might work better during a different daypart.  Anchors are not interchangeable between various dayparts. Katie Couric, for example, was well-received on ‘Today’ for years, but never got traction in the evening news chair at CBS.”

Original "New Day" hosts Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira are long gone from the program. 
(CNN YouTube)

Keilar’s time on the show has been a wort-case scenario for CNN. “New Day” averaged only 433,000 total viewers during the week of July 5-11 for its lowest-rated week of 2021, while timeslot competition “FOX & Friends” delivered 1.1 million viewers.

“New Day” was even worse in the category that keeps the lights on, as it managed only 76,000 viewers among the key demo, its worst showing in more than seven years. 

Fox News, Investigation Discovery, Hallmark, MSNBC, USA, NICK at Nite, TNT and ESPN all averaged more viewers among the key demo than “New Day,” which managed to tie Nickelodeon in the category that doesn’t account for adolescent viewers. 

NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck feels it can’t simply be “sheer incompetence” plaguing CNN’s morning show amid multiple reboots. Zucker proved he could run a successful morning show when he was the executive producer for “Today” at the height of its during Katie Couric’s time as “America’s Sweetheart” and Lauer’s pre-scandal glory days. 

Houck noted “Zucker’s ‘Today’ show was wildly successful for the way that it and other morning shows were structured with hard news, interviews, concerts, cooking” and other upbeat segments, but “New Day” has taken the opposite approach. 

“Zucker and his minions have made a conscious decision to operate based on division, hatred, and snark and doing so from the left. Brianna Keilar’s condescending and obnoxious monologues sure weren’t going to fix the ratings, no matter how Zucker and Resistance-types on Twitter felt about them,” Houck told Fox News. 

Brianna Keilar has developed a reputation for fiery, partisan monologues and combative interviews with conservatives.

Houck acknowledged that Americans consume news differently in 2021 than they did during Zucker’s “Today” zenith of the 1990s, but other morning programs such as “FOX & Friends” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” continue to attract large audiences. Many industry insiders and media observers feel CNN’s drift from news to left-wing opinion is too intense for viewers who are simply to finish their coffee and get to work on time. 

“When it’s all about Trump and hating non-liberals, there’s only so many of those kinds of viewers to go around, and the reality is MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ has long been seen as the show for Beltway types,” Houck said. 

Berman, who moved to the anchor chair when Cuomo was promoted by Zucker to primetime, is beloved by colleagues and a favorite among CNN’s loyal viewers. However, Berman shares an anchor desk with Keilar, who has developed a reputation for combative interviews with conservatives and welcoming on-air chats with fellow liberals.

“CNN may not have a single personality who can save its morning show. However, if it does, it’s not Keilar,” Outkick columnist Bobby Burack recently wrote in a piece that called “New Day” a disaster. 

“From the start, Keilar was a bad fit for a morning show. Morning TV — whether news, entertainment, or sports — must include elements of fun. Even Americans don’t want to wake up in a bad mood every day. Just some days,” Burack wrote.

During the month of July, “New Day” has averaged fewer viewers than programs like MTV’s “Teen Mom,” History’s “Forged in Fire,” Food Network’s “Chopped,” “Dr. Pimple Popper” and We TV’s “Love After Lockup.” 

“It is clear Zucker’s current approach is not working,” McCall said. 

Outkick and Fox News share common ownership. 

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