Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CNNI Programming Boss: Viewers Want "Connectedness, They Want To Feel, They Want Passion, Emotion, Humanity"

Katherine Green, CNN International's Senior Vice President of Programming, spoke at an annual television conference in Sydney last night.

Appearing on the panel exploring international trends in programming, Ms. Green offered a snapshot of some of the ways the network has been reacting to the new global news consumer.

Below is an excerpt of Katherine Green's speech to the ASTRA 2011 Conference.

In three years at CNN, we have spent a lot of time studying a new kind of consumer. We have discovered a globally minded, very autonomous and intelligent and extraordinarily curious person who is trying to consume information. I saw some ratings out of Australia and saw the news still makes it into the top 10 on a weekly basis. It is a reflection that consumers want to be informed. They are thirsting for knowledge and understanding. What we're beginning to do as we watch the ebb and flow in ratings is tell us that we need to change our programming. They are challenging us to do that.

There has been an emphasis from our viewers, they want intelligent rather than sensational. They want depth and context rather than brevity and speed. They are asking for perspective, and want separate perspectives, there are so many different ways that you can see a story. If you are in the Western world, you may see it one way, and the Eastern world, you may see at another. The viewers have recognised that and are asking us to give as many perspectives as possible. Because they are autonomous in thought and want to come to their own conclusions from that.

The result is, we have been working on involving the programming, which is no easy thing to do. They want connectedness, they want to feel, they want passion, emotion, humanity. When news is presented, they are looking for those things in it so they have a connection with things happening around them. The straightforward presentation of fact, you can get online. What TV does is make it visual, visceral, and emotional. You can tap into it, feel it. When you add digital abilities, it becomes interactive. We will have to converge technologies and create a world in which TV and Internet are complimentary, instead of separate platforms working apart.

There is a new kind of programming playing for the consumer. It is experiential. When you see a government being overthrown by protesters, organised through social media, playing out in your living room, the revolution taking place, it is an experience you are having unlike any other. When you add in the number of people who can take video clips, photos, and send it into a news agency and allow us to show their experiences to you, you have an even greater experience. Every single time I see the video of the tsunami rolling across Japan, and know that I watched it happen live. I stood there and watched it. At that moment, I shared a human response. Oh my gosh, what is happening? Somebody explain this to me.

We are seeing viewers asking us for that opportunity, to have this profound experiences, those connections coming from profound experiences. So what is CNN's role in all of this? We have to make sense of it. When you have that moment, watching it play out on television, we have tried to transport you there as best we can. You need to know what is happening. What does it mean? What thoughts should I be having? Our job is to take the core values we have had for years - trust, value, integrity - and we cannot dumb-down the message, we have to be intelligent and transparent.

You can read the full transcript of Ms. Green's speech in a PDF available from the conference website here.

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