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Category: CNN

CNN officially severs ties with Larry King

Larry King and CNN are ending their relationship
CNN and Larry King are going their separate ways.

Though King gave up his daily prime-time talk show on CNN in December 2010, he still had a deal for several specials. The last of those — "A Larry King Special: Dinner With the Kings" — aired in December.

In a statement Wednesday, CNN said it had "the greatest respect for Larry," and wished him "the best of luck with his new endeavors.” King added that he has nothing but love for CNN. King's staff of four will likely be let go from CNN but may be able to reapply for new jobs at the network.

King, 78, was replaced by British media personality Piers Morgan. Though Morgan's ratings have not been blockbuster, overall he has done better than King was doing at the end of his run in attracting viewers in the 25-54 demographic that CNN targets. However, so far this year, Morgan's numbers are worse than what King was averaging before giving up the show.

The decision by CNN to discontinue King's specials brings to an end a relationship that lasted more than 25 years. In that last special, King told his guests, including Conan O'Brien, Tyra Banks, Shaquille O'Neal and "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, that he wanted to be frozen after he died.

"I want to be frozen on the hope that they'll find whatever I died of and bring me back," King said.

RELATED:

Piers Morgan promises to shake things up on CNN

Larry King back on CNN with Alzheimers special

Larry King retiring

— Joe Flint

Photo: Larry King. Credit: Rose M. Prouser / Associated Press.

The pros and cons of sending big-name anchors to Egypt

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That wasn't exactly a welcome wagon that rolled out in Egypt these last few days for U.S. journalists who rushed there to cover the civil strife. CNN's Anderson Cooper and his crew were shoved around, a Fox News team ended up in the hospital and CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric also ran into unruly crowds.

While the happenings in Egypt are an incredible story and worthy of lots of coverage by the broadcast and cable networks, a debate could be had about how much is gained by dispatching high-profile reporters who usually spend the bulk of their time behind a desk to hot zones. No one questions their courage, of course, but is this the best way for TV news divisions to utilize their resources?

By sending Couric and Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC's "Nightly News" who is also in the region, the networks are sending a signal to their viewers that what's happening in Egypt is important. It is their belief that unless a star anchor is there a story won't be noticed. There may be some truth to that, but perhaps the answer is to do more foreign reporting and less fluff rather than shipping a big name overseas every time a major story surfaces.

The costs that go into sending an anchor to a trouble spot are not to be taken lightly. While the networks will say that the security of all their staffers is paramount, rest assured a lot more precautions are taken when a $15-million-a-year anchor is there as opposed to a freelance producer or part-time correspondent. Those are resources that might be better spent on beefing up coverage in general with more people with roots in the region or at least a lot of time on the ground there. 

Indeed, Couric already hopped a plane back to New York while Williams anchored Thursday's news from Amman. Did sending Couric there for such a short stay really advance the story? They were not even there long enough to try to leverage their clout to get big interviews.

In fact, it was Christiane Amanpour of ABC News who snagged the first interview with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. While Amanpour is a big name in her own right, that came from years of reporting from trouble spots around the globe, not from sitting behind a desk. ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer stayed in New York.

The arrival of big names can also detract from the story itself. Not only do they become potential targets by protesters, their mere presence can shift the tone of coverage from what the events in Egypt mean to Egyptians and the rest of the world to how is the media responding to the violence or how is the unrest impacting the coverage.

Every reporter knows the feeling that when a story is breaking they should be there. Sometimes, though, that urge to rush in needs to be balanced with what is best for the story.

If one thing should be clear to the reporters there, it's that being a journalist is not some badge of immunity. As consultant Andrew Tyndall, who tracks and analyzes news coverage, notes, "Journalists are more often targets of violence, less often respected as neutrals."

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Christiane Amanpour interviews Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

For the record: This post was updated to note that Katie Couric had already returned to New York to anchor the Thursday newscast while Brian Williams anchored from Amman.

 

 

Lou Dobbs joining Fox Business Network

Just about a year to the day that he left CNN, Lou Dobbs is returning to cable news, this time as host of his own show on News Corp.'s Fox Business Network.

DOBBS Fox Business Network is expected to announce that it has signed Dobbs as early as Wednesday afternoon. It's the latest high-profile hire for the cable network, which launched a little over three years ago and is in 57 million homes. Although that is far fewer homes than its chief rival, CNBC, Fox Business last week managed to beat CNBC on election night, both in viewers and the key adults 25-54 demographic.

Dobbs' show will premiere in early 2011. He will also appear on other Fox Business programming.

When Dobbs left CNN last November after clashing with management there, he said some leaders had been urging him to "go beyond the role at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day."

At that time, there was speculation that Dobbs would seek some sort of political office. He had become something of a lightening rod on several issues, most prominently illegal immigration. It was his commentary on that topic that often led to fights with CNN brass, including Jon Klein, who was then president of CNN's domestic operations.

Although Dobbs played up the idea that he would enter politics, many within the media industry anticipated that he would find a new home at Fox, either with Fox News Channel or Fox Business.

Dobbs has not been off the radar for the last year. He continued his nationally syndicated radio show after he left CNN and is expected to keep that gig with Fox Business as well.

Dobbs will instantly become one of the biggest names on Fox Business. Neil Cavuto is its most prominent on-air personality. Other high-profile anchors and reporters include Charlie Gasparino and Dennis Kneale, both former CNBC staffers, and Gerri Willis, an ex-CNN correspondent who hosts a show for Fox Business.

-- Joe Flint

For the record: This post was updated to include details on Dobbs show would premiere.

Photo: Lou Dobbs. Credit: Karen Bleier / Getty Images

Morning Fix: 'Social Network' scores. Rupert Murdoch tilts right again. Sanchez adds to CNN's woes. Quick hook in new TV season. CAA gets an infusion.

After the coffee.  Before seeing if I had the Kansas City Chiefs going undefeated this season.

The Skinny. In Monday's roundup: Sony's "The Social Network" takes the top spot at the box office, but don't look for Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to buy the DVD. CAA has landed a big investment from TPG, a private equity firm, that the talent agency hopes will position it for a bright future in an uncertain world. No new hits so far in the TV season. Legendary producer Stephen Cannell, who died late last week, not only created great TV, he stood up for independent producers against the networks.

Sony likes this! "The Social Network," Sony Pictures' attempt to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the creation of Facebook and the legal battles that followed its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, finished first at the box office, taking in $23 million. That is just a little off from what industry analysts had projected, and the movie easily beat the other two major releases that opened -- "Case 39" and "Let Me In." The real challenge for "The Social Network" will be to avoid being the MySpace or Friendster of movies, starting out hot and then vanishing from the zeitgeist. Box-office analysis from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News

Zuckerberg's thumb is down. Although the box office was good, Facebook and Zuckerberg are not fans of "The Social Network," which people close the company claim is a very distorted look at the history of the social-networking site. Hollywood take creative liberties? Shocking. David Kirkpatrick, who wrote a book on Facebook with the cooperation of Zuckerberg, talks about what he thinks the movie got wrong in the Daily Beast. After reading his article and seeing the movie, I was more surprised by how much Kirkpatrick said the movie got right versus what he said the movie got wrong. OK, so Zuckberberg didn't have sex in a bathroom as implied with the movie; I think he can survive that hit to his reputation.  In the meantime, Zuckerberg is trying to improve his own profile, making a big donation to public schools in Newark, N.J., and appearing on both Oprah Winfrey's show and Sunday's episode of "The Simpsons."

Disney's new new media duo. Walt Disney Co.'s digital aspirations are so big that it takes two executives to run its interactive unit. Over the weekend, the company announced that John Pleasants, chief executive of Playdom, a social gaming site that Disney bought earlier this year, and James Pitaro, who oversees Yahoo Inc.'s media operations, will be co-presidents of Disney Interactive. They replace Steve Wadsworth, who left a few weeks ago. Details from Bloomberg.

CAA's new look. On Friday, Creative Artists Agency announced TPG Group, a firm whose investments include Burger King and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, bought a 35% stake in the talent agency whose clients include Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey. The deal will also see CAA and TPG create a $500-million fund for future investments. The move comes as the movie and television industries struggle to adjust to the shifting digital landscape. Analysis from the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and Deadline Hollywood.

CNN's struggles. It is a cash cow with a brand known the world over, but Time Warner Inc.'s CNN has seen its ratings plummet in the U.S. over the last decade as Fox News has raced to the top and MSNBC has made big inroads. New York magazine looks at the unsuccessful efforts of recently ousted CNN U.S. President Jon Klein to shakeup the network and turn it around, and how its competitors have managed to steal the spotlight. CNN's headaches only got worse on Friday when one of its hosts, Rick Sanchez, was canned for calling Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" a bigot and for taking some shots at CNN management as well. The Washington Post on how Sanchez imploded.

Rupert leans right. Once again, News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch has made a big donation that has people talking about the influence of his media company -- whose holdings include Fox News -- on the country's political climate. Murdoch wrote a $1-million check to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is working primarily on behalf of Republican candidates. The New York Times takes a look at Murdoch's spending and what it has people saying about his company.

Quick trigger. The TV season is only a couple of weeks old and already two shows -- Fox's "Lone Star" and ABC's "My Generation" -- have been canceled. So much for having patience when, with so many shows launching at the same time, it's hard to get the attention of viewers. Of course, some shows just are not good, and all the marketing in the world won't make a difference. Variety has a look at the quick hook of the networks.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Scott Collins looks at the lack of success for most of the TV season's new shows. Legendary producer Stephen Cannell, who died on Friday, not only made a lot of great shows ("The Rockford Files," "Wise Guy"), he was a strong voice for independent producers.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter because it will make Monday go by faster. Twitter.com/JBFlint

Anderson Cooper's daytime dreams are not without risks

Anderson Cooper, the CNN newsman who has often tried to walk the fine line between serious journalist and television personality, is going to take a day job to complement his evening gig. Telepictures, the syndication unit of Warner Bros., has signed Cooper for a new talk show it plans on launching in the fall of 2011, just when Oprah Winfrey leaves the airwaves for her new cable network OWN.

Clearly Cooper has decided against, for now anyway, making the move to broadcast news. CBS may be in need of an anchor for its evening newscast when Katie Couric's contract is up, but if Cooper is busy doing daytime TV, he won't be a candidate. He also likely would have been a contender for any spots that open up on the morning shows.

COOPER,jpg It's hard to fault Cooper for not wanting to wait for a chance to anchor a broadcast network newscast. Ratings are on the serious decline there and all the networks are struggling to compete against cable. In fact, if Cooper's daytime television show is successful, he may have just taken away one of Couric's career options. There has been talk that she would try her hand at afternoon chat should she decide to walk away from CBS.

Cooper can also make a ton of money in daytime television and, since Telepictures is part of Time Warner, the same company that owns CNN, its keeps him in the family.

But there are a lot of risks as well.

While Cooper's early days saw him hosting an ill-fated reality show for ABC called "The Mole," since then he has worked hard to reshape his image and earned a reputation as a crusading journalist for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Cooper, who will continue at CNN too, hasn't been afraid to try his hand at the lighter fare. He often sits in for Regis Philbin on the hit morning show "Live with Regis & Kelly" and does move seamlessly between both worlds.

However, guest hosting on a friendly celebrity chat show and taking on a daytime talk show are two different things. Cooper, who like any newsman on cable these days has done his fair share of tabloid material, will have to be careful not to make that a full-time job in his afternoon gig or else he could find himself permanently on the soft side of the newsroom.

In the release announcing the new show, Cooper said he hopes to "relay important information ... and create something worthwhile and special in daytime.” 

Has Cooper watched much daytime television lately? It's either softball celebrity chit-chat or depraved families and friends screaming at each other. It is hardly the home of serious journalism or deep exploration of topical issues. Yes, Winfrey can occasionally take on serious topics, but over her career she also got as down and dirty as anyone in daytime. 

If Cooper wants to go the celebrity route, he'll be competing against Ellen DeGeneres, another Telepictures talent who also is looking to snag Winfrey's audience and stature. If he heads more toward the world of Dr. Phil, he could hurt his stature as one of the faces of CNN.

Then there is the question of whether Cooper will appeal to the daytime audience. The latest numbers from Nielsen show his females numbers on the decline. In the third quarter of this year, Cooper's audience of women aged 25 to 54 -- the bread and butter of daytime TV -- was off almost 60% from 2009.

Certainly the lines continue to blur between journalist and junket hopper. Even the legendary Edward R. Murrow did his fair share of puff pieces. But Cooper, a Yale graduate who seems to have always aspired to be more Murrow and Sevareid than Regis or Kelly, should be extra careful to protect the reputation he's tried to build and not let it slip away in pursuit of ratings or dollars.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Anderson Cooper. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times

Related:

'Anderson Cooper wants to hit daytime circuit'

CNN got rid of its U.S. president Jon Klein not long after extending his deal

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While there was constant speculation that Jon Klein's days as president of CNN's U.S. operation were numbered, the executive himself was caught off-guard by his dismissal.

In an interview, Klein revealed that he had recently renewed his contract with CNN and has "quite a bit of time left" on his deal. Furthermore, just last April his boss -- CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton -- said he wasn't worried about CNN's poor ratings.

"It's not as dire as maybe some people say," Walton said, adding that while he wasn't satisfied with the performance, he also wasn't "concerned." At that time, CNN had seen its prime-time ratings drop by more than 41% from a year ago.

That doesn't sound like someone getting ready to make a big executive change. On Friday, Walton said CNN's performance was the reason for replacing Klein with HLN chief Ken Jautz.

"We're not satisfied with the low ratings," Walton told reporters on a conference call, but did not elaborate on what specifically had changed from a few months ago to lead him to do make the move to replace Klein.

Klein had been with CNN for almost seven years and Walton was very patient and supportive of him,  leading some in the industry to wonder whether the decision to make a change came from CNN parents Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner Inc.

A spokeswoman for Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting, denied that Kent pressured Walton to get rid of Klein and offered a statement from Kent issued to Company Town praising the restructuring of CNN. Kent said -- in very corporate speak -- that he is "in full support of his [Walton's] newly announced organizational structure and leadership team." A person close to Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said the change came from within CNN.

Klein, who had been working on putting the finishing touches on a new prime-time lineup, said, "I don't really understand the timing." Noting that he was being shoved out before his new shows had premiered, Klein said he feels like a baseball manager who is "fired right before the playoffs."

While Klein wouldn't be the first person to be let go after signing a relatively new deal, in his case given all the talk about his long-term future at the network, it seems unusual that he would be given an extension and continued support from his boss only to be dropped a few months later.

The two big moves Klein made in the last few months were sealing a deal for Piers Morgan to succeed Larry King in the 9 p.m. hour and hiring Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor, to co-host a political chat show.

Piers, the British TV personality who moonlights in the U.S. as a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent," will succeed King in January. Spitzer, who resigned as governor in the wake of a sex scandal, is being teamed with Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist, for a political talk show starting next month.

Now it will be up to Jautz to make those moves pay off. A CNN veteran who has had stints working overseas for the company and who also ran the now-defunct business channel CNNfn, is credited with revitalizing HLN, which was formerly known as CNN Headline News.

But while Jautz has boosted ratings at HLN, his methods -- which included giving shows to fire-cracker lawyer Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck (who has since left for Fox News) -- have some wondering if CNN might soon have a more tabloid and over-the-top approach to programming.

In an interview, Jautz said CNN will “stick to its nonpartisan programming philosophy,” but he was quick to add that the network needs a shot of adrenaline.

“We have to be more exciting … in order to engage the prime-time audience you need to provide them something more,” he said. That means, he said, that  CNN will start to have  more opinion trickling into its content, but the network will do it in an “inclusive manner.”

Replacing Jautz at HLN will be Scot Safon, who had served as chief marketing officer of CNN Worldwide. While not a journalist by trade, Walton said Safon is a "strategic thinker" who has been "involved in and contributed to all the big decisions that have been made here over the last few years."

While Fox News doesn't mind tweaking its rivals about how they are performing, Roger Ailes, the chairman of the top-rated news channel, praised Klein.

“We’ve enjoyed competing with CNN during his tenure and I’m confident he’ll be an asset to any news organization he joins in the future," Ailes said, adding that he looks forward "to continuing our personal dialogue.”

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Jon Klein. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman / For the Times

CNN shakes up executive ranks amid continued prime-time woes

Time Warner Inc.'s CNN, is shaking up its executive ranks in the wake of the network's continued struggles to turnaround its prime-time lineup.

JAUTZ Exiting after six years in the job is Jon Klein, president of CNN U.S. He will be succeeded by Ken Jautz, who is executive vice president of CNN's sister channel HLN (formerly Headline News). Although Jautz has been given oversight over CNN, he will not be given Klein's title of president and will remain an executive vice president. Succeeding Jautz at HLN will be Scot Safon, who is CNN's chief marketing officer.

In a company announcement, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton said he would also be naming a managing editor of CNN Worldwide to oversee all of CNN's news operations.

While speculation has been rampant that Klein's days were numbered at CNN, the timing is unusual in that it comes after the cable channel has already unveiled much of its new prime-time lineup, which will launch in the coming months. Klein most recently was involved in the exit of longtime CNN personality Larry King, who will be replaced by Piers Morgan, a British TV personality who also hosts a talent show on NBC. 

CNN, which was created by media mogul Ted Turner as basically a television wire service, has struggled to compete against the more personality-driven programming on Fox News, which has been the ratings leader for the last several years. Although CNN is still a cash cow for parent Time Warner, it has not been able to develop breakout personalities to host the evening chat and debate shows that have replaced straight news coverage.

-- Joe Flint

 Photo: Ken Jautz. Credit: CNN.

The Morning Fix: Google is coming for your TV! CBS has passage to India. BermanBraun rakes in some new dollars. Morty's back in late night.

After the coffee. Before yet another flight to New York. And in August no less.

Google is coming! Google is coming! Search giant Google is getting serious about its small-screen aspirations. The company has been meeting with broadcast and cable networks to try to get access to their content for its new Google TV application that will allow consumers to watch TV through the Web. Of course content providers want to make sure they a) get paid for their programming and b) don't alienate the cable and satellite distributors who already carry their channels. Google's real aim to is to get more ad dollars and leave Apple's television aspirations in the dust. More on Google's big push and what the challenges will be from the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal.

What's a million dollars between friends? Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. made headlines this week for its $1-million donation to the Republican Governors Assn. This, of course, gave fuel to the left to take shots at Murdoch's Fox News operation. Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz, who also works for Fox News rival CNN, followed up on Tuesday's story on this from Politico. A News Corp. spokesman told Kurtz that it is "patently false" that a donation by News Corp. would somehow influence coverage at Fox News. By the way, lots of media companies give money to political causes. The New York Times also weighed in with a article on Rupert's largess. 

Really, it'll happen. Variety checks on Disney's deal to sell Miramax to Ron Tutor, the big-shot construction guy (sorry, I'm tired of saying "construction magnate") and says that although the pact was announced weeks ago, the financing is still not nailed down. The deadline to close is Sept. 7, and odds seem long that it will be met. Of course, Disney could extend it or go back on the market and see if Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein want to make one more run. 

A passage to India. CBS and India's Reliance Broadcast Network Limited announced early Wednesday morning their plans to launch a joint venture that will create three English-language television channels. The networks, which will launch later this year, will feature both current CBS content and library fare as well. CBS becomes the latest U.S. media company to try to build a presence in India. Here's an early take from the Hollywood Reporter and an old story about the talks from the Wall Street Journal, just to bring you up to speed.

Morty's back. Veteran producer Robert "Morty" Morton is coming back to late night as the show runner for TBS' "Lopez Tonight." Morton was the longtime executive producer for David Letterman. The move comes as Lopez prepares for his show to relocate to midnight to make room for Conan O'Brien. Details from Broadcasting & Cable

Read at your own risk. The Wrap says it has come across an e-mail with details of what is in development at Paramount Pictures. Among the projects are a Will Smith movie from director Kathryn Bigelow and a comedy starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Paramount told the Wrap that some of the material in the e-mail is right and some it is wrong.

Digital dollars. BermanBraun, the entertainment company headed by former TV big shots Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, has roped in $100 million in advertising commitments from Starcom, a big agency whose clients include Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. The money is for BermanBraun's digital operations, including its websites Wonderwall and Glo. The New York Times, which always seems to have the inside scoop on these guys, has the story, as does the Wall Street Journal blog All Things D. They can flip a coin to decide which one was fed this first. 

Turner on a roll. "Rizzoli & Isles," the female detective drama featuring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander, is the latest hit for TNT. Although it has hardly been a critical smash, it is drawing big audiences and proves that there is a big appetite for what Ad Age calls "meat and potatoes"-type programming. Variety also weighs in on a piece about cable's hot summer.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Dr. Laura says goodbye to radio. Just because the star leaves, that doesn't mean the show can't go on. Haim Saban buys Julius the Monkey.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I've been known to tweet from airplanes. Twitter.com/JBFlint

Lots of options for Katie Couric at CNN if that's what she wants

Although she still has almost a year to go on her contract, speculation is starting to heat up on whether Katie Couric will remain with CBS as anchor of its evening newscast or move elsewhere in 2011.

There has always been talk that Couric was a likely replacement for Larry King at CNN once he stepped down from his hourlong chat show. However, with British talk-show host Piers Morgan expected to take that job, that window may be closing on Couric, per the New York Times.

COURIC But just because King's 9 p.m. ET show may go to someone else doesn't mean that there aren't other openings for Couric at the cable news channel if that's what she wants. CNN is struggling in just about every evening hour and would gladly plug Couric in anywhere to try to stop the bleeding.

Even if Couric had her heart set on CNN's 9 p.m. slot, odds are the network would find a way to make that happen. It's not as though Morgan is some established brand that can't be moved.

The real question is whether Couric would want to go to CNN. Although she has not had the smoothest of rides since leaving NBC's "Today" show to take over as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," she still gets a bigger audience than most cable news programs. It remains to be seen if she would view moving to cable as a step backward.

If Couric does want off CBS' signature newscast, her broadcast options are pretty limited. Both ABC and NBC are set with their anchors -- Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams, respectively -- and a return to morning, while easily doable on CBS, would also seem unlikely at NBC or ABC.

That leaves syndication. In terms of a payday, an afternoon talk show featuring Couric would likely be an easy sell to television stations. The risk is to Couric's image. She has always walked a fine line between serious newscaster and celebrity figure. A daytime talk show may lower her stature as a journalist, and you can't put a price tag on that.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: CBS' Katie Couric speaks at the Time/Fortune/CNN Global Forum in June. Credit: Michelly Rall / Getty Images

CNN's ratings woes not limited to Campbell Brown and Larry King

While CNN is spending much of its time focusing on jump starting its 8 and 9 p.m. hours, it might want to start paying a little more attention to the 7 and 10 p.m. hours as well. That's what a quick look at the July ratings reveals.

At 7, John King's show is off 42% in viewers and 36% in adults 25-54 from what Lou Dobbs was averaging last July, according to Nielsen. Last year, Dobbs averaged 723,000 viewers, and while that was far behind Shepherd Smith's show at Fox News, he was beating everyone else. Now, though, CNN has dropped to fourth in that hour.

Anderson Cooper also doesn't have a lot to smile about. His 10 p.m. show had a disappointing July, averaging only 575,000 viewers. Not only is that down 56% from July 2009, it is the second-least-watched month ever for Cooper who spent much of his time on the road covering the British Petroleum oil spill and the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

CNN is working hard to revamp the 8 p.m. hour. Campbell Brown recently left her show, citing its disappointing ratings as one of the causes for her exit. CNN is going to launch a political chat show featuring former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and columnist Kathleen Parker this year. That show was seen as a shift toward the more debate and issues approach to cable news of its rivals.

Larry King also gave notice that he will be leaving the 9 p.m. hour he has anchored for over two decades this fall. However, there apparently isn't a lot of sentimentality regarding news of King's exit because his July audience was off 55%. Of course, last July King was able to milk the death of Michael Jackson for big ratings.

CNN is certainly struggling in the ratings right now and is off 53% in prime-time viewers compared to last July, but its stronger rivals can't crow too much. Fox News is still on way out on top, but its prime-time average is down 11% in viewers compared to the same month a year ago while MSNBC was off 9%. CNN's sister channel HLN saw 20% of its audience disappear.

-- Joe Flint

[Updated Wednesday at 3:29 p.m.: A previous version of this post misspelled Spitzer's first name as Elliot.]

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