Exclusive: Erin Burnett on Her Show’s Success, And Her Most Surprising Supporter

By Mark Joyella 

BurnettEAt CNN, most of the talk in recent months has been about layoffs, the leadership of Jeff Zucker, and, at times, Don Lemon. Shows have been canceled, high profile talent and executives have departed, and after months of turmoil some insiders admit they’re exhausted. A few even describe the mood as grim. So it’s worth mentioning that in one corner of CNN’s Columbus Circle home, where the “Erin Burnett OutFront” show team works, the mood is upbeat. “I love coming to work every day,” Burnett tells TVNewser.

Since her CNN debut three years ago, Burnett has steered clear of the chaos and quietly created something the network has in somewhat short supply–an hour of the nightly lineup–7pm–that is both stable and successful. Last week, “OutFront” had a rare one-day win in the demo over Fox News Channel’s “On the Record” with Greta Van Susteren. Year-to-date, “OutFront” has taken second place from MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews in the demo, and in November, the show boasted a +102% increase in the demo versus 2013, while “Hardball” fell -42%.

Burnett tells TVNewser “OutFront” has matured into a show she enjoys, and that makes the bosses happy. [Disclosure: I was part of the team that launched “Erin Burnett OutFront” in 2011]. “Creating a new show is not easy. You have to learn a lot of things the hard way. Over the past three years, we’ve built this show into an hour we are incredibly proud of…with a team that’s thick as thieves.”

TVNewser confirms Burnett recently signed a new contract that will keep her at CNN for several years–and further remove her from the uncertainty that surrounds other shows and stars at the network. But perhaps most surprisingly, she’s earned the respect and friendship of a very unlikely supporter–her biggest competitor.

“I like Erin. She’s smart, she’s good at her job,” Van Susteren told TVNewser. “Don’t get me wrong, I like to win. But I want (Erin) to be successful. I can enjoy her success.”

When I tweeted a link to last week’s ratings, noting “OutFront” had beaten “On the Record”, Burnett tweeted back, complimenting Van Susteren:

Van Susteren says despite working hard every night to beat CNN, she has no problem calling herself a fan of what Burnett is doing at CNN. “I want her to be successful. Because long after I’m gone, she’s going to be carrying the torch for women,” Van Susteren said. “Every time Erin Burnett does well–and she does well often–she’s up there being a role model for young women.”

In a MediabistroTV interview earlier this year, Burnett told us how she sent letters–lots of them–to one of her TV news role models, leading to her “First Big Break”: