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CNN Poaches ABC's Brown

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LOS ANGELES -- Cable News Network said Wednesday it will launch an evening newscast this fall with ABC News veteran Aaron Brown as anchorman.

The newscast is not necessarily intended as direct competition for the newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS, CNN executive Sid Bedingfield said Wednesday.

"We're looking for the right time slot," Mr. Bedingfield said. The newscast won't be a recitation of the day's news, he said.

"We're going after depth, enterprise reporting and engaging storytelling. We want pieces and coverage on this newscast you wouldn't find anywhere else," Mr. Bedingfield said.

CNN currently devotes the early evening hours to "Inside Politics" and "Moneyline."

Mr. Brown, 52, anchor of the Saturday edition of ABC's "World News Tonight," will also take a lead role in breaking news coverage and handle election coverage with Judy Woodruff.

CNN, beset by dwindling viewership and competition from relative newcomers Fox News Channel and MSNBC, has undergone a management shake up and changes, including the departure of longtime anchor Bernard Shaw.

Although Mr. Brown is assuming many of Mr. Shaw's duties, "You couldn't replace Bernie Shaw at CNN, 20 years, all he has done," Mr. Bedingfield said.

Mr. Bedingfield, a veteran CNN executive who was promoted to general manager of the company's American news network last fall, said the new program and Brown's hire "tells you a lot about CNN now."

CNN built its reputation and audience on breaking news stories such as the Gulf War. The new program will capitalize on CNN's international reach to create "a newscast that is the best in television."

CNN will be competing for a shrinking pool of viewers. Two decades ago, nearly three-quarters of TV sets were tuned to early evening network newscasts; now only 44% favor NBC's Tom Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings or CBS' Dan Rather.

Mr. Brown said he is looking forward to developing a newscast with the luxury of more than the broadcast networks' half-hour time slot.

Asked about joining a changing CNN, he said: "It seems like everybody in the television business is going through an interesting time. We're all trying to figure out how to deal with the changed environment that CNN more than anyone else has helped create."

A correspondent for ABC News since 1991, Mr. Brown has reported for "World News Tonight" with Mr. Jennings, "Nightline" and other ABC news shows.

"I feel like a kid in a candy store today," he said. "I get to write, report, interview, handle breaking news. There aren't many jobs that could have gotten me to leave ABC, but you can't say no to this."

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.