Looks like CNN is doing something new to counter its predictable peacetime ratings slump. No Reservations star and former Top Chef host Anthony Bourdain is slated to come to the network with a new food-and-travel series, set for sometime near the beginning of next year. The show will be produced by Zero Point Zero, the company behind No Reservations and Bourdain's airport cuisine show, The Layover, with company founders Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins producing alongside Zero Point Zero executive producer Sandy Zweig.
CNN is attempting to reposition itself as a network with news for every day. On the one hand, its strong credentials as a reactive entity that can reshuffle an afternoon at the drop of a bomb make it the go-to network during conflicts, elections and natural disasters; on the other hand, those same strengths have left the network spinning its wheels when there's less momentous information to report. Beefing up lifestyle and business coverage has become a top priority.
Thus, Bourdain won't just be creating another unscripted series with this gig. CNN says he'll also be a commentator on the network and blogger for CNN.com (the food guru has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 a number of times already). A network spokeswoman said he could conceivably be useful on stories like the "pink slime" story about chemically compromised beef filler; she also said that "there's an appetite for acquisitions" at the network these days.
Mark Whitaker, evp and managing editor for CNN Worldwide, clarified that said appetite for less hard-newsy programming would mostly be limited to weekend binges. "If there's any strategic story here, it's that we'll be exploring different kinds of programming on the weekends," said Whitaker. "What [Anthony] does reflects a lot of what CNN already stands for, certainly in terms of teaching people about the world."
And yes, having a new program with an established celebrity may help to staunch the flow to other networks that CNN always experiences when there isn't an explosion or a flood. Bourdain, Whitaker said, has fans, and that's something the network needs. "They will show up every week, they will watch the whole show, and that has appeal to us too," he said. "It's not the kind of show that you dip in and out of for five minutes to find out what's going on. You would not be wrong to say that we're looking for more of that."