Interview: CNN’s Anderson Cooper Gets Talking

The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference begins this week in Miami, and the standout new entry, in terms of clearances, is Anderson Cooper.

Telepictures Production talker Anderson is cleared in approximately 87 percent of the country including the soon-to-be former Oprah time periods in Washington, D.C.; San Diego; Lexington, Ky.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Bakersfield, Calif. AdweekMedia’s Marc Berman recently spoke with Cooper and Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions, about the new strip.

After your stints on CNN and 60 Minutes on CBS, why do a daytime talk show?
A.C.: I am very fortunate to have the kind of job that is both challenging and impactful, and quite different everyday. But daytime is a great medium for human, fascinating and compelling stories. There is a one-to-one connection with the audience unlike anywhere else. And this is the absolute right time to tackle this.

Why is that?
A.C.: My contract was being renegotiated at CNN, and I wanted to try something new that is also current, real and insightful, but with interaction and activity. Since I have sat in for Regis Philbin many times on Live With Regis & Kelly, and have had an opportunity to appear on a number of daytime shows, I feel very comfortable in this medium. And then I met Hilary and was anxious to forge ahead.  

How does someone with a hard news background fit comfortably in daytime?
A.C.: By recognizing the strength of this medium and understanding that a talk show in daytime is not CNN in prime time. We will feature current events, but the stories will be more of a human nature. Oprah, of course, has created an unprecedented window of opportunity in daytime.  

But the marketplace is riddled with talk shows. What sets this one apart?
H.E.M: There is a high roster of competitors, and, as we know, many of the new projects do not succeed. But there still is an opportunity for a smart, informational hour that is both relevant and poignant. And Anderson is a double threat. He has experience as an interviewer and is a great storyteller. As strong a presence as he is in the news arena, he is equally as relatable in a more personable environment. He has a connection to the available audience in daytime.

Will this be an issue-driven hour?
A.C.: We will tackle issues, absolutely. But this will not be a talk show with hard news. We will take it as it comes, with a focus on issues, current events, pop culture and anything relevant. So, what you see one day could be very different the next. I want to connect with the audience like the old Donahue show, not just sit at a desk with someone hawking his or her latest project. We will feature celebrities, names in the news, real people and people behind the headlines, with a regular roster of contributors. I’m a great admirer of the old Donahue brand.

Is there anyone in particular you have a preference to have on the show?
A.C.: One particular person, no. But I really want to focus on the real people in society who have a story to tell, who we can learn from and who we can help. What I love about the idea of this show is the possibilities. There are so many stories to tell.
Will you be closely monitoring your ratings?
A.C.: I definitely want to know how we are doing and use it as a benchmark to see what is working. But my main priority is the show itself and putting the best foot forward every day.