CNN Turns to Films and Original Series to Help Boost Ratings

As the ratings for television news channels decline, broadcasters are looking for new ways to draw an audience. CNN is working toward gaining viewers by airing original films and series like the documentary “Blackfish,” which aired back in October, and “Chicagoland,” a reality TV show that will begin airing next month. Jeff Zucker, the newest president of CNN, took over in January and has been hands-on since, pointing the network in a slightly different direction.

According to The Economist, Zucker attended Sundance Film Festival to show three original films by CNN and buy the rights to a documentary called “Dinosaur 13.” This type of programming is clearly working for CNN. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s series “Parts Unknown” has attracted millions of new viewers to the network and is one of its most popular shows.

Zucker is passionate about news. “However, he also believes that CNN cannot live by news alone,” the article says. “There is no glory in the role of unbiased ‘referee’ between two partisan networks, Mr. Zucker tells his staff. ‘Nobody goes to the game to see the ref.’”

In 2014, CNN will have about 70 hours of original films and TV shows — “less than one-and-a-half hours a week, on average,” The Economist reports. Another reason for the shift is that more people are getting their news from the Internet. Amy Mitchell of the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project explained there is a ceiling to how many people get their news by watching TV.

“Unfortunately, CNN and other American cable-news channels continue to travel to unfamiliar and dark ratings terrain themselves,” says the article. “Last year median primetime ratings for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC declined by between 6 percent and 24 percent.” The article notes that cable news channels are going through what print newspapers started seeing 10 years ago: “people are abandoning them for the Web, where advertising rates are much lower.”