Prime time, post-Piers
With the news last night that CNN would be pulling the plug on Piers Morgan's 9 p.m. program, CNN finds itself in a position to completely revamp its primetime lineup. Anderson Cooper, who recently signed a new, long-term contract with the channel, seems secure at 8 p.m., but now 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., where Cooper's "AC360 Later" most recently aired, are up for grabs.
That said, "up for grabs" may not actually be the right wording. CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has been saying for months that his next priority was revamping CNN's primetime lineup, so he presumably has some idea of what he wants to do there.
"I think the next goal is to work on primetime," Zucker told Capital New York in December, noting that among the possibilities being considered are half-hour programs.
Right now, sources in the TV industry expect two changes: ABC News hire Bill Weir will get a primetime program, and CNN will expand it's taped programming to the Monday-Friday primetime lineup.
When Capital spoke to Zucker last year, he said "we're looking at [primetime] as a possibility" for Weir. It isn't clear whether Weir would land at 9 or 10 p.m., or whether his show would be a full hour or 30 minutes. Weir has been with CNN since late last year, and the channel said he would host his own program, but no details have since emerged about his show. Now the channel has an opening to reveal some of those details.
With regard to taped shows: Zucker has made no secret of his desire to add more shows like Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" and Morgan Spurlock's "Inside Man" to CNN's primetime lineup, as well as films like "Blackfish." For now, those shows have settled into Sunday nights, though CNN is trying to make Thursday a destination for its films and limited series. One possibility being floated inside of CNN is putting some of those taped shows at 10 p.m. every night. Right now, CNN doesn't have the library to do that, but the channel has a slew of projects on the pipeline. In fact, Time Warner execytives wanred that CNN's profit margins will be tightened this year as it spends big on acquired programming.
The cancellation of "AC360 Later" at 10 p.m. and "Piers Morgan Live" is effectively a shaking of the Etch-A-Sketch, or a clearing of the slate. Jeff Zucker now has two hours to play with in primetime. Bill Weir is almost certainly going to secure some of that prime real estate, but the rest of it is still waiting to be filled.