Warner Bros. Discovery brands HBO and CNN are joining forces on a weekly basis.
Overtime, the post-show segment for HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, will air on CNN Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. ET. The segment will debut this coming Friday, February 3, during the 11 p.m. hour of CNN Tonight.
Overtime, which streams on YouTube, features Maher and his guests continuing the discussion and answering viewer questions following each week’s episode of Real Time. Topics include news of the day, culture, business, politics, and more.
Laura Coates will presumably anchor the full 11 p.m. hour of CNN Tonight Monday-Thursday.
Fellow cable news outlet Fox News has seen success with the roundtable, comedy talk format at 11 p.m., as Gutfeld! has emerged as one of the top-rated shows on all of cable news. It has performed especially well Fridays with adults 25-54. CNN’s offering will be a bit different, however. It is an extension of an existing program, will air weekly and only cross paths with the second half hour of Gutfeld!
CNN CEO Chris Licht spoke with the L.A. Times Steve Battaglio recently, sharing thoughts on CNN primetime (aka. the 9 p.m. hour), CNN This Morning, the new dayside programming format and the decision to cut third-party CNN Films and Originals. Below are some highlights:
L.A. Times: So there was some reporting that said you’re looking to do some type of topical comedy show in prime time. Is that true?
Licht: No. I worked on a comedy show. And it took over 200 people to produce an actual comedy show. So no, I would not be so foolish as to, in one fell swoop, hurt the brand of comedy and news by trying to do a comedy show on CNN.
What are you doing?
I’m casting a wide net to help broaden the appeal of our prime time. But at the same time, I can’t offend our core audience of news junkies. I would never do anything that would hurt the brand and reputation that we’re working so hard to restore.
Are you talking to comedians about being part of the new prime-time show?
We are in conversations with culturally relevant individuals from the worlds of entertainment, sports and comedy who can bring fresh and unique perspectives to the news.
How do you assess the performance of CNN This Morning?
Licht: Early days. It’s just finding its footing. I think we have all the right raw materials, and now it’s just really about coalescing how the show is produced around those three personalities and utilizing the resources of the network as best as it can. “Morning Joe” took about a year to get its footing.
The ratings were up 7% in the fourth quarter last year, helped by the coverage of the House speaker vote. But the numbers were down for the network overall in 2022. I know you’re in a rebuilding mode, but at what point do you expect them to rise again?
What we are doing is fundamentally reformatting the network. And it’ll take some time for that to get into a rhythm, and then it’ll take time to market it. And so it will take some time to grow again. I have explicitly been given that time. Because the people I work for understand that we didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.
You often beat MSNBC in the 25 to 54 demographic during the day. There is also a news viewing habit during the daytime in which the audience expects a certain person to be there at a specific time. Why play around with that?
The new format completely establishes CNN’s credibility and reputation. Because that is what’s on in offices around the country, in Congress, etc. And we are just redeploying those familiar faces who are not newsreaders, they’re actual journalists. So it’s leaning into their strength, putting them in the same cities, and then really pulling back the curtain as to how we gather news and how a story incrementally changes over time. You’re taking three anchors and you are evolving the news as it evolves for the viewer. In my mind, I want people to be making an appointment with CNN and really showcasing what only we can do, which is global newsgathering. At one point I thought maybe we put the 9 a.m. editorial call on the air. But I was talked out of it for a variety of reasons.
You’ve done some cost-cutting, like other media outlets. But I was a little bit surprised that you are not going to buy any more films or series from outside producers for CNN Originals.
Why was that surprising to you?
Because those programs and movies gave CNN appointment viewing and a library that could be amortized over time. The content was easy to promote because of the big-name talent involved. Why do you think this was a place where you should cut?
First, I think we can do some of that with our own people. And I think we can really lean into making long-form programming that will have some of those same benefits. Also, I am part of Warner Bros. Discovery, which has all kinds of resources and content that we can also utilize on our platforms. [Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development] did an incredible job building that unit. It just got nominated for an Academy Award [for “Navalny”]. And she is in the middle of building an internal studio that can do some of that really glossy high-end stuff that we’ll roll out next year.