CNN is in trouble.
Chris Licht, the Liz Truss of the media world was gone before he had gotten started.
The ratings are way down, and so is revenue, down 48% in a single year.
New owners David Zaslav and John Malone are scrambling to try and figure out what to do.
The problem is not the political bent of the network, nor is it who the anchors or on-air ‘personalities’ are. These are cosmetic issues. The problem with CNN, and the opportunity it affords (if you can see it), is that CNN makes TV news the same way TV news has been made since 1967 — reporters, stand-ups, man on the street, interviews, b-roll, and so on.
It is, in a word, boring.
It is, in other words, pretty unwatchable. To watch CNN, you have to want to watch CNN, and flashing BREAKING NEWS every 30 seconds is not going to get anyone’s attention — not in 2023.
TV audiences today are pretty sophisticated, and they spend most of their time watching things like Netflix. CNN has an average of 422,000 viewers. Netflix has 235 million paid subscribers. That should tell you something. CNN is free and no one wants to watch it. You have to pay for Netflix and 235 million people are happy to do that.
What’s the difference?
CNN is boring. Netflix tells stories. But when you think about it, news is really stories — I mean, done properly, it is stories about people, just like Netflix, actually.
So what would happen if you married Netflix storytelling to news and journalism? You would get things that people actually wanted to watch. It’s not that hard.
The other thing CNN does wrong is the way that they make their stories. Camera crews, producers, editors, big expensive gear, complication on complication, expense on expense.
This is also stuck in the 1960s.
Do you have an iPhone on hand? Well, if you do, you have a professional video camera that shoots 4K video, edits, adds music and graphics, and can go live from anywhere in the world. Pretty good, huh? In fact, you have everything that CNN has in your pocket right now.
There are 1.4 billion people on TikTok — all making video. Do you think even one of them hires a camera crew? An editor? Get the idea here.
So, CNN has 4,000 employees. That means that, equipped with iPhones (and properly trained) CNN could field 4,000 cameras around the world every day. That could make for some pretty interesting TV news.
Here’s a story done by Itay Hod — character driven — no reporter stand-ups, no man-on-the-street interviews — a news story, but done like a Netflix story — and all done by him alone, with nothing but an iPhone.
You tell me
Is this compelling TV news or what?