Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair Weigh in on CNN

By Alex Weprin 

Vanity Fair’s Michael Wolff writes about CNN and CNN U.S. President Jon Klein. Considering how well-tread the subject matter is, there isn’t much in Wolff’s article that is new to readers of this blog, though there are some interesting nuggets. For example, Wolff writes about Klein’s “original idea” for the new 8 p.m. program:

Klein’s original idea for replacing Brown in the eight P.M. hour was to do a show with a panel of “investigators”-detectives, prosecutors, tough-guy journalists who would do… investigative journalism. Dramatic, but high-end. One of Klein’s ideas for the panel was Eliot Spitzer, who, albeit disgraced, had made his career as a muckraking attorney general. Spitzer, however, when contacted about this idea by CNN, said he couldn’t possibly investigate anyone without subpoena power.

He also writes about CNN’s profitability, despite the lagging ratings:

But Klein, who has the title president of CNN/U.S., may not be the person most responsible for the collapse of CNN. And, in fact, CNN may not have collapsed at all-last year was its most profitable (half a billion dollars’ worth of profit); the current quarter will be more profitable still…

CNN’s cable fees remain high in part because it is the respectable news network. A cable operator would be making a politically controversial statement if it carried just Fox and MSNBC. CNN now makes its money by charging cable operators a premium fee to avoid such controversy.

Wolff’s analysis is a bit off there, as Fox News charges a carriage fee in the same ballpark as CNN, and is seeking even higher fees when it renegotiates its deals. Spud at Inside Cable News takes issue with a few other points Wolff makes.