Say, has anyone noticed that Crossfire has been missing?

posted at 2:41 pm on April 10, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Since I don’t watch a lot of talking-head television, I certainly hadn’t noticed that Crossfire went off the air a month ago. The lack of buzz over its absence suggests few others noticed it, either. TV Newser reports that CNN’s obsessive coverage of the Malaysia Air Flight 370 disappearance knocked it out of the schedule, but that CNN insists it will return:

Today marks one month since “Crossfire” last aired. But it’s not for a lack of political news: the Affordable Care Act sign-up deadline, which lends itself to fiery debate, came and went; there have been primaries in several states leading up to the 2014 midterms, not to mention the jockeying for 2016, and then there’s the politics of foreign policy: Russia, Ukraine, the Middle East and beyond.

A CNN spokesperson tells TVNewser the 6:30pmET show “will remain on hiatus this week, but will be back soon.”

Jordan Chariton writes that “CNN clearly sees value in the brand,” but that’s a little difficult to square with its programming decisions. Their Flight 370 coverage initially pre-empted it, which made sense when the story was still generating headlines every few minutes. It’s been weeks since that’s been the case, though; right now, it’s a story that normal news shows could easily handle, with a chyron for anything else significant. The issues in Ukraine are a lot more volatile and fluid, and lend themselves a lot more to the kind of breathless breaking-news coverage that would pre-empt a program that had “value in the brand.”

Chariton later points out that the value has sharply declined since Crossfire’s launch:

From its first full month in October to its last two weeks on-air, the show lost -39% of its total viewer audience and lost -42% in the news demo. “Crossfire’s” replacement, a full-hour of “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” has drawn strong ratings over the past few weeks, and twice in March was the most-watched cable news show in the demo at 6pmET.

News performs better at a traditional news hour than four people yelling at each other about politics? That doesn’t seem like such a shock. If so, then the decision to sideline Crossfire makes sense. Besides, with the departure of Piers Morgan, CNN has a perfect slot for a political talking-head show like Crossfire at 9 ET. Why not just move it to prime time? Does CNN have a more intriguing host in mind? Not exactly, as the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple discovered in his inbox:

CNN offered this explanation:

As part of the announcement, the network is bringing Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) back to series television, in a new program called Somebody’s Gotta Do It.  In addition, proven television personalities John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted) and Lisa Ling (Our America with Lisa Ling) will also join CNN, with their own new, original series. CNN will also premiere The Jesus Code, which will take viewers on a forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible. And CNN announced that the ten-part original series The Sixties, from Playtone and acclaimed producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, will premiere in late May.  The network also announced that its Peabody and Emmy-award winning hit Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown has been picked up for an additional four cycles in 2015 and 2016 and its critically acclaimed series Morgan Spurlock Inside Man has been renewed for another cycle in 2015. CNN has also entered into a development deal with the producers of Chicagoland to tell the story of another great American city.

All of those original series, plus a weekly documentary from CNN’s in-house documentary unit, will air at 9pm, ET beginning this summer.

In making the announcement at CNN’s Upfront presentation in New York City, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said, “The best journalism is, at its core, great storytelling. We are so pleased to welcome some of the finest storytellers in the business to CNN, to join the award-winning team of world class journalists and storytellers who have made CNN the home to this kind of quality programming for more than 30 years. The seamless integration of original series and live news coverage, which has been on display the last two months, is the foundation of our new primetime lineup.”

That primetime lineup will begin with Erin Burnett Outfront at 7pm ET, followed by Anderson Cooper 360 at 8pm ET.  The 9pm, ET hour will be the new home of CNN’s Original Series, CNN Films and the network’s in-house produced documentaries like Dr Sanjay Gupta’s Weed and Anderson’s Cooper’s The Survivor Diaries.  Over the last year, CNN’s four most-watched series have been Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Morgan Spurlock Inside Man, Chicagoland and Death Row Stories. At 10pm, ET CNN will debut a one-hour news program called CNN Tonight, a live hour of the day’s biggest stories, with rotating hosts anchoring the program.

So CNN has two hours of prime-time programming to fill … and Crossfire won’t go into either one, even though that’s talking-head time on its competitors. For two solid hours, CNN will offer no consistent anchor to brand its broadcast, instead hoping that an eclectic mix of specials, documentaries, and rotating presenters will create brand loyalty.

We’ll see, but this looks less like brave innovation in programming and more like an admission that CNN’s Jeff Zucker simply has no other options — even with Crossfire on the bench.


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Schadenfreude on April 10, 2014 at 2:44 PM

When a tree falls on CNN, will it still make a sound?

Roy Rogers on April 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM

What’s Crossfire???

Sven Pook on April 10, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Ed, we got the ErikWemple note, the first time :)

Schadenfreude on April 10, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Wasn’t that obama-scumhag on Crossfire?

Schadenfreude on April 10, 2014 at 2:47 PM

CNN used to be respected.

22044 on April 10, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Infomercials would get better ratings than Piers Morgan.

Another Drew on April 10, 2014 at 2:47 PM

CNN could have been running reruns of I Love Lucy 24/7/365 for the last 10+ years and I wouldn’t have even known. I couldn’t punch in the numbers for CNN on my remote if you held a gun to my head. Seriously.

Any network that even muses that blackholes, aliens, or the paranormal could be responsible for a missing plane might as well be hang it up. CNN should change its name to CNN-SyFy.

Resist We Much on April 10, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Unlike Letterman, he’s irreplaceable when you think about it.

Akzed on April 10, 2014 at 2:50 PM

My comment over at pjmedia:

“Isn’t Mike’s first show going to be about what life is like aboard a ship that searches for missing planes? John Walsh is going to cover it as a crime, Lisa Ling will document the lives of Chinese workers in Malaysia, and this whole incident was foretold in the Bible.”

rbj on April 10, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Crossfire? Crossfire? Bueler? Bueler….?

vnvet on April 10, 2014 at 2:51 PM

To hell with it, just go with Law and Order reruns.

HLN’s switch to 24/7 Forensic Files seems to be working out.

forest on April 10, 2014 at 2:51 PM

C able
N ews Blues
N etwork

Schadenfreude on April 10, 2014 at 2:51 PM

So CNN has two hours of prime-time programming to fill

No wonder Fox out does them and the next 5 networks combined.

Johnnyreb on April 10, 2014 at 2:52 PM

They’re going to pack an entire decade’s worth of history into a 10-part series produced by a dedicated leftist, that should be interesting.

“After the GOP started a war in southeast Asia in an attempt to cleanse the region of little yellow people, JFK and MLK tried to stop the war and were subsequently murdered by early adherents of the Tea Party.”

Bishop on April 10, 2014 at 2:53 PM

When a tree falls on CNN, will it still make a sound?

Roy Rogers on April 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t mind one fell on Piers Morgan.

CurtZHP on April 10, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Hey, Mike Rowe, if allowed to work without liberal minders breathing down his neck ( yes, this is CNN, so the probability is low) can put together a pretty good show. Might be worth something.

Vanceone on April 10, 2014 at 2:55 PM

And welcome back, Bishop!

We tried to upgrade someone to a Rook, but no one took the job, so I see they called you back off the bench? :D

Vanceone on April 10, 2014 at 2:56 PM

They could pipe into RT and Pravda.

Schadenfreude on April 10, 2014 at 2:57 PM

“The best journalism is, at its core, great storytelling. We are so pleased to welcome some of the finest storytellers in the business to CNN, to join the award-winning team of world class journalists and storytellers who have made CNN the home to this kind of quality programming for more than 30 years. The seamless integration of original series and live news coverage, which has been on display the last two months, is the foundation of our new primetime lineup.”

Pfft.

WhatSlushfund on April 10, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Knot Tying and Basic Seamanship with Richard Quest did not focus group well.

rw on April 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Jake Tapper is one of the bright spots on that network. Some of their documentaries can be interesting, but almost all lean heavily to the left.

Fox beats CNN, MCNBC, and HLN combined.

cat_owner on April 10, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Zucker should take the option of honorable seppuku.

myiq2xu on April 10, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Mike Rowe just announced he’s hosting a new primetime CNN show. Called “Someone’s got to do it” or thereabouts.

TexasDan on April 10, 2014 at 3:07 PM

the value has sharply declined since Crossfire’s launch

Maybe because nobody give a hoot in heck anymore about watching Van Jones and Newt Gingrich claw and scratch at each other like wild animals for any length of time??????

Sacramento on April 10, 2014 at 3:08 PM

cnn could go OFF THE AIR entirely – and very, very, very few would notice.

TeaPartyNation on April 10, 2014 at 3:10 PM

No, but I’ve noticed the stock market seems to be melting this month.

Midas on April 10, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Bishop on April 10, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Howdy, bro. Good to cya.

Midas on April 10, 2014 at 3:12 PM

The best journalism is, at its core, great storytelling.

That tells you everything you need to know.

Shump on April 10, 2014 at 3:13 PM

Bigger news: The Bish is back!

Missed your insight on the news of late.

tru2tx on April 10, 2014 at 3:16 PM

The Sixties on CNN? Nothing to see here, folks, might as well watch Megyn Kelly on Fox, who probably wasn’t born yet in the 60′s.

Steve Z on April 10, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Imagine that, CNN returning to the news

phreshone on April 10, 2014 at 3:21 PM

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said, “The best journalism is, at its core, great storytelling.

And this is why your network is failing, CNN.

Burn to the ground. No one wants to hear your story because your story is literally synonymous with the one presented to us from WhiteHouse.gov and Democrats.com.

Journalism at its core is telling the salient facts of impactful developing news stories no matter who or what those salient facts might influence the news consumer to decide.

If people want storytellers they can buy an audiobook.

BKennedy on April 10, 2014 at 3:23 PM

What’s Crossfire..?

d1carter on April 10, 2014 at 3:24 PM

As part of the announcement, the network is bringing Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs) back to series television, in a new program called Somebody’s Gotta Do It. In addition, proven television personalities John Walsh (America’s Most Wanted) and Lisa Ling (Our America with Lisa Ling) will also join CNN, with their own new, original series. CNN will also premiere The Jesus Code, which will take viewers on a forensic and archaeological journey through the Bible. And CNN announced that the ten-part original series The Sixties, from Playtone and acclaimed producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, will premiere in late May. The network also announced that its Peabody and Emmy-award winning hit Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown has been picked up for an additional four cycles in 2015 and 2016 and its critically acclaimed series Morgan Spurlock Inside Man has been renewed for another cycle in 2015. CNN has also entered into a development deal with the producers of Chicagoland to tell the story of another great American city.

Sooo, the Cable News Network is giving up on, you know, news.

Kind of like how MTV never plays any actual music.

There Goes the Neighborhood on April 10, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Name sounds familiar but I’m sure I never watched it.

crankyoldlady on April 10, 2014 at 3:55 PM

Crossfire? Maybe for conservatives. Otherwise, more like circlejerk.

WryTrvllr on April 10, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Crossfire under Newt could have been a pretty good show, but the lineup just wasn’t serious. SE Cupp, Stephanie Cutter, Newt, and Van Jones. (!!) I understand why the network thought it needed younger people to offset Newt, but unfortunately Jones and Cutter are total hacks (Jones is an outright commie) and Cupp is a lightweight.

I think the main problem is that most people who might be into shows like Crossfire are too damn busy at 6:30 pm. If they’re home from work, they’re probably rushing to get dinner on the table.

Missy on April 10, 2014 at 4:15 PM

When Crossfire was first created, CNN was the only cable news network. They were the “fair and balanced” alternative to the Big 3 networks (NPR types weren’t counted).

AND there was nothing like it. The news tradition was to interview the two sides separately. Sometimes the second interviewer would be asked to respond to something the first said, but that was as close to interaction as it got on the news or Sunday talk shows.

Crossfire was entirely new, there hadn’t been a head-to-head argument show between conservatives and liberals. Amazing that no network had been willing to try it before. One of the great television studio aspects of the 1968 Democratic Convention was the series of “debates” between William F. Buckley, Jr., and Gore Vidal. Perhaps it was the way Buckley owned Vidal on points, reducing the writer to carping insults, that made it unpalatable.

But now there are any number of shows where they put on both sides at once. Even Fox Business Channel will do it and get them arguing investment strategies and what economic news means.

The format isn’t new and fresh anymore.

Adjoran on April 10, 2014 at 4:50 PM

“InterviewEE” not “-er”, sorry.

Adjoran on April 10, 2014 at 4:51 PM

If they are hiring Mike Rowe to do taped shows they should just put him in the prime time slot as a host. I love the guy, and would give him my time watching if he was building a unique show. Kinda stinks that they plan to waste him on specials.

eski502 on April 10, 2014 at 5:28 PM

The positive thing about the new lineup is that they may making an interesting documentary from time to time that I MIGHT tune in to.

eski502 on April 10, 2014 at 5:30 PM

“Jeff Zucker simply has no other options”

Stick a conservative or libertarian in either spot and they’ll smash any ratings they’ve put up in the past. Anyone from Adam Carrolla to Newt would work.

eski502 on April 10, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Crossfire was too irritating to watch back in he old days. I was never interested in the new version.

The problem with the show was that the half hour was 10 minutes of content and 20 minutes of commercials.

Mark was here on April 10, 2014 at 5:34 PM

To answer the question: No!

(~_^)

avagreen on April 10, 2014 at 5:42 PM

The time for debate is over.

Buddahpundit on April 10, 2014 at 7:06 PM

They are trying to give a last life to this idiot which this post. He is an idiot from the British media that thought that he could make a difference. He didn’t.

mixplix on April 10, 2014 at 7:47 PM

If they are hiring Mike Rowe to do taped shows they should just put him in the prime time slot as a host. I love the guy, and would give him my time watching if he was building a unique show. Kinda stinks that they plan to waste him on specials.

eski502 on April 10, 2014 at 5:28 PM

He ought to have a talk show. He talks so well.

crankyoldlady on April 10, 2014 at 9:02 PM

So Mike Rowe has yet another dirty job.

Ray Van Dune on April 11, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Some of you think CNN can be fixed by hiring conservative hosts, but that’s really not an option. The network would have to get rid of almost all its non-technical employees and start over from scratch with all new people.

And where would they get them? Hire them away from other networks? haha

Hire new graduates from the journalism schools? haha

J Baustian on April 12, 2014 at 5:47 PM