HLN Exec on His Network’s Success and CNN’s Struggles: ‘There’ll Always be Different Phases’

By kevin Comment

With much of the focus this week on CNN’s October ratings, there’s one executive who doesn’t have any explaining to do.

TVNewser spoke with EVP of CNN Worldwide and head of HLN, Ken Jautz, for a different perspective on the recent success of his network and the pessimism about his colleagues’ ratings at CNN.

According to Jautz, from a business perspective, things are not quite as dire at CNN as ratings-watchers make them out be. “We have two fully distributed networks, and we have programmed these networks to aim at different audiences,” he said. “Of course, over time, there’s going to be phases where one asset on one platform does better than another on another platform.” He pointed to the election season last year, when CNN was particularly strong and HLN wasn’t hitting the pace it is now. “There’ll always be different phases.”

He also argues that “fusion data” shows CNN has big numbers across its platforms (HLN, CNN, CNN.com), “and what we sell is across platforms,” he told us.

“HLN right now, as a network, is showing across the board strength,” Jautz says. In October, “Morning Express with Robin Meade” beat CNN and MSNBC in the A25-54 demo and, as a whole, the network was second only to Fox News in that demo in total day. But it’s at night where HLN has been getting noticed, “The evening lineup is just starting to hit a stride and, bit by bit, we’re getting increased audience flow from one show to another.”

CNN has seen a drop in viewership since the election, while HLN hasn’t seen that kind of a decline. Part of that is due to the formula HLN’s adopted. “The whole network is based on the personalities and not simply on events,” said Jautz who compares his talent to op-ed columnists. “The audience is interested in coming to ‘the column’ or to the host on days when there’s big news and on days where there’s less news.”

Whether the rise of personality-driven programming is good or bad for the future of broadcast journalism, it’s working well right now for that other CNN network.