Opinion: "Live"? From CNN Center...
UPDATE #2 - 1:30am September 9, 2011: Another email tipster says to expect Quest Means Business to re-air at 10:00pm (eastern) on ALL CNN International feeds. If true, then the network has well and truly lost the plot. A topical business news program, tracking (in part) the latest market movements on Wall Street, airing 8 hours after it first runs. You read that correct. An 8 hour old program running instead of a live program during Asia's late morning.
UPDATE #1 - 2:00am September 8, 2011: CNN Observations is still awaiting confirmation from CNN International on whether the network will go ahead and air the 10:00pm (eastern) replay of Anderson Cooper 360º from next week, but two emails from Atlanta suggest that the northern feeds may take the replay, while feeds in Asia Pacific will replay Quest Means Business in the 10:00pm (eastern) time slot. Again, CNN Observations is still awaiting official confirmation from CNN.
Whilst I was politely reminded in one of the emails I received that Quest Means Business is a CNN International production, the ratio of International Vs. Domestic-produced programs on CNN International wasn't really the point I was trying to highlight during the first part of the post below. The point I was trying to make is that CNN International is down an hour of LIVE news during the Asia morning dayside hours. In that context, whether it's the repeat of Anderson Cooper 360º or Quest Means Business that goes to air is pretty much redundant as both will be on tape.
Anderson Cooper 360º has been simulcast on CNN International for a number of years at the same time it went to air live at 10:00pm (eastern) in the U.S. Once the program moved to 8:00pm (eastern) early in August, CNN International decided to stick with airing the taped replay at 10:00pm (eastern). As of this week, that’s all changed. Sort of.
CNN International now simulcasts the live 8:00pm (eastern) edition, and according to advance guides from CNN, will continue to simulcast the taped replay at 10:00pm (eastern) as well. **NB: This week the 10:00pm (eastern) timeslot is airing CNN’s 9/11 documentaries. In order to take the 8:00pm live edition, CNN International has axed the edition of World Business Today that was geared towards audiences in the Asia Pacific region.
What now happens to Pauline Chiou, Colleen McEdwards and Luis Carlos Velez remains to be seen at this stage. The three had anchored the axed edition of World Business Today from Hong Kong, Atlanta and New York respectively. The announcement posted last Friday on the World Business Today Facebook page leaves no clues as to where the 3 will next appear, except for a tip to be watching “other programs throughout the network”.
“Today is the last broadcast for the WBT program at 8pm in New York and 8am in Hong Kong. Join us for the live edition of Anderson Cooper 360º weekdays (U.S. Eastern time). Colleen, Pauline, Luis and our entire team want to thank you for watching our program.
Be sure to stay with us for our other World Business Today programs at 4pm and 9pm in Hong Kong. And be sure to watch for Colleen, Pauline, and Luis on various other programs throughout the network.”
If CNN International does continue to take the Anderson Cooper 360º replay at 10:00pm (eastern) – CNN was still yet to confirm this with CNN Observations at the time of this post – the weekday schedule between 6:00pm and 12:00am (eastern) will be as follows:
6:00pm – The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (60 minutes) [All feeds except Asia Pacific where World Report airs instead]
7:00pm – World Report (60 minutes)
8:00pm – Anderson Cooper 360º (60 minutes)
9:00pm – Piers Morgan Tonight (60 minutes)
10:00pm – Anderson Cooper 360º (60 minutes)
11:00pm – World Sport (30 minutes)
11:30pm – Taped feature (30 minutes)
For viewers in Asia, that means the only chance they’ve got to see an international news bulletin on CNN International during their morning will be at 6:00pm and 7:00pm (eastern) which is 6:00am and 7:00am Hong Kong time. The next 4 hours are filled with Anderson Cooper 360º (1 hour live, 1 hour taped), Piers Morgan Tonight, World Sport and a 30 minute taped feature. In short, the new schedule means CNN International loses a live hour of news, and that has many on the forum questioning what CNN International’s thinking here is.
It’s not only viewers in the Asia Pacific region who have expressed displeasure at this scheduling change either. Viewers in Europe are complaining about the lack of substantial international news coverage from CNN International during, what is, their late evening / overnight hours. If you take into account the hour of Back|Story and World Sport that airs before The Situation Room simulcast in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, the argument could be made that viewers in the northern hemisphere are possibly worse off (in terms of hours between seeing a standard World Report news bulletin) than those in any other region.
In addition to harsh criticism on our forum, some views posted on the World Business Today Facebook page leave no doubt that viewers are feeling frustrated with the latest programming changes:
“You are not the ''World's News Leader'' if you don't put news in your schedule. I use to watch CNN from World Report (7 PM ET) and World Business Today (8 PM ET), but if you're showing us more US news for a International network, OMG ! I won't see CNN any more. Bring us, the news to CNN.” - Felipe Sandoval Cortés
“I don't know who are the people who make scheduling decisions for CNNI but they are really destroying the channel last 2 years. Almost no news on weekends and now a growing number of CNN US simulcasts on weekdays. Asian morning schedule will soon be filled with Blitzer's show then new Errin Burnet show then Cooper's show and then more taped shows, it's a disgrace. To make the whole thing worse they have this new cheesy tagline that even their anchors feel embarrassed to say (World's News Leader). It's anything but the world's news leader at the moment. Canceling WBT Asia morning edition is another of these crazy decisions, for example this morning Asia had 1 hour and 45 minutes of news and then for the next 4 hours and 15 minutes it's all taped show. Is this what a real news channel would do???” - Rados Koprivica
CNN would probably rightly suggest that Anderson Cooper 360º will provide live news updates on international events when it warrants. They would probably also claim, with some degree of truth, that Anderson Cooper 360º is a much more internationally-focused show than most (if not all) CNN Domestic programs. But how reactive will the program be if a major news story breaks in the Asia Pacific region? If past examples are any indication, the answer is: not very well! CNN International has, in the past, had to break away from the Anderson Cooper 360º simulcast to cover breaking news of an international nature. Whilst the network should be praised for taking such moves when it has, it’s hardly an ideal situation when your main competitors (Al Jazeera English and BBC World News) are live with their own rolling news programs (or 30 minute live news bulletins at the top of each hour) catering to international audiences. **BBC World News simulcasts co-produced bulletins with BBC’s domestic news channel during these hours.
If Anderson Cooper 360º must be in the CNN International schedule, I don’t believe airing the live edition of the program is a bad move. I, and most others, prefer to see CNN International take the live edition over the taped replay. What has got viewers off side is the fact that CNN International has decided not to pick up the 10:00pm (eastern) hour to continue producing an Asia Pacific-focused edition of World Business Today or an hour of World Report.
4 hours of programming, 2.5 hours of which will most likely be taped the majority of the time (i.e.: Piers Morgan Tonight, Anderson Cooper 360º replay, World Sport and the following canned feature), feels like an eternity when you’re waiting to get up to date with the day’s news. People want the news on their schedule, not when CNN International tells them they’ll get it. When you’re broadcasting to the world, you’ve always got an audience in a prime viewing time zone somewhere. Overnight in the U.S. is middle of the day and afternoon in Asia and morning in Europe. To apparently adopt the attitude of the domestic network when it comes to replaying news programs just doesn’t cut it on an international network. It never will. Especially when the competition in the international news market is as fierce as it’s ever been.
On Monday and Tuesday night (Tuesday and Wednesday morning in Asia) CNN International provided an update on market openings in the Asia Pacific region during the first commercial break of Anderson Cooper 360º. Whether this will be enough to keep viewers looking for the latest international news and market updates confident enough to stay tuned in over the following hours remains to be seen. If anything, it seems to reinforce the fact that CNN International is at a disadvantage when it stacks a chunk of its schedule with taped programming or simulcasts from CNN Domestic. You could read it as an acknowledgement on CNN International’s part that even a live edition of Anderson Cooper 360º is not suitable for audiences at 8:00am, 9:00am and 10:00am – depending where in the Asia Pacific region they live.
In contrast to CNN International, BBC World News recently revamped their Asia dayside line-up with branded news shows on the hour, followed by live editions of business programs focusing on Asia.
It is possible that the CNN International schedule is set to change yet again later this month if this tweet turns out to be correct:
Could we soon see Asia’s morning schedule lose yet another hour on international news? As CNN Public Relations is yet to confirm with CNN Observations, it may be a case of waiting and seeing later this month.
In addition to the latest weekday schedule change, there’s been growing outcry from viewers on the forum about CNN International’s weekend schedule.
For some time now, CNN International has been producing a limited number of live news bulletins on Saturday and Sunday. Just a couple of years ago, it was common to see a 30 minute live news bulletin on the hour, almost every hour. These days, viewers are left wanting with gaps of up to 4 hours without a live news bulletin. If you are unfortunate enough to miss a news bulletin, you can either try to make sense of the RSS feed from CNN.com that passes as a news flipper during taped programming, or you try to remember when the next scheduled bulletin will air. More often than not though, you simply flip to another channel.
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who manages to catch a bulletin or willing tough it out through the taped hours, the content of some of the scheduled news bulletins will sometimes leave you think it was all a wasted effort. Some World Report news bulletins don’t seem to offer much more than a few topical news items, followed by segments previously seen during the week or cut out of taped weekend specials.
The graph below details live news bulletins between 0000 GMT – 2359 GMT Saturday and 0000 GMT Sunday – 2359 GMT Sunday on CNN International, BBC World News and Al Jazeera English. As the graph illustrates, CNN International well and truly lags behind Al Jazeera in terms of live news bulletins, and slumps behind BBC World News (also far behind AJE) on both days as well. It's important to note, though, that even during those hours when BBC World News does not air a 30 minute news bulletin, it runs a shortened bulletin of 10 or 15 minutes at the top of each and every hour. CNN International runs 90 second headline updates at the top and bottom of most hours during taped programming. Click on the images for a larger view.
** Notes – this graph is taken from published schedules on CNN.com, BBCNews.com and AlJazeera.net/English. All attempts have been made to ensure the example is taken of the same typical weekend. I’ve used the schedules for the weekend of September 3 and September 4 as our reference. The data only includes live programs specifically designated as international news bulletins produced by, or produced for the respective channel. As such, the data does not include live programs exclusively representing sport and business news, or the simulcast of Anderson Cooper 360º or State of The Union with Candy Crowley. In the case of some hours not resulting in whole hours, this is a result of some news bulletins with scheduled running times of 10 minutes or 15 minutes.
It’s not just the lack of scheduled news bulletins that adds to CNN International’s weekend woes. Often live news events covered by other news networks are either cut to too late, cut short to return to schedule taped programming, or skipped altogether. Sometimes new developments or breaking news isn’t reported until the next headline window at the top or bottom of the hour or until the next scheduled news bulletin airs. It’s not uncommon to see information of breaking news or new developments being relayed via CNN Twitter accounts an hour before you see anything at all on television.
This example shows one such incident recently. Whilst Sky News, BBC World News and Al Jazeera English were all screening a press conference by Moussa Ibrahim, former Libya Information Minister, CNN International stuck with the scheduled Piers Morgan Tonight replay. The caps below were captured between 1112 GMT and 1117 GMT on Sunday August 21. Click on the image for a larger view.
What makes CNN International’s preference of taped programming over live news bulletins on weekends more galling is the way the anchors have recently started to spruik “CNN, the world’s news leader” every chance they get. Is a network that seems to think that live news should be the exception rather than the rule entitled to consider itself “the world’s news leader”?
Ted Turner famously once quipped that there weren’t enough hours in a day to cover all the news in the world, and that fact certainly remains true. So, what is the reason behind all the taped programming on weekends? Inadequate staffing levels in Atlanta? The chase for advertising / sponsorship dollars? What?
CNN International has proved on several occasions this year that it can produce world class coverage on weekends of breaking news events when it wants to. From the Arab Spring coverage from earlier this year, to the Norway terror attacks, the network stepped up to the plate with live, rolling coverage with anchors and correspondents bought in to keep viewers abreast of developments. It shouldn’t take big news events for the network to realize there’s an appetite for international news coverage on weekends. CNN International can boast about “going beyond borders” and being one of the few international news networks that is profitable all it wants. The fact is all of that talk does nothing for their reputation of being the go-to network for news any hour of the day. That reputation takes a hit each and every weekend.
Let me start to finish up with this note written by a participant in CNN International’s weekly Global NewsView survey. In a somewhat surprising move, it’s been added by CNN to the front page of the survey with other selected comments. It starts off by praising CNN International’s coverage of the Norway terror bombing and shootings, and then goes on to highlight - probably much more effectively than I’ve been able to do in 10 times as many words - the problem with CNN International’s weekend situation. Click on the images for a larger view.
Whether it’s on the forum, on the Facebook pages of network talent and programs or Twitter, CNN International viewers have not been shy to express their opinions on the matter of poorly scheduled, easily accessible news bulletins on weekends. Whether CNN International management is willing to listen and react to the constant criticism is another matter. There’s been no indication that they are, so far.
Related forum links:
Weekends On CNN International