CNN president Jonathan Klein (pictured) has been hard at work this year remaking the network's primetime lineup, its most important programming block. But whether or not his effort proves successful, he won't be around to find out. CNN just announced that Klein is leaving his post, and the network, after six years, to be replaced by Ken Jautz, head of sister channel HLN. The news was first reported by The New York Times.
In one obvious sense, Klein's departure is no surprise at all. CNN has struggled mightily for years to make a case for its own brand of relatively neutral, opinion-free news reporting while viewers have gravitated more and more to partisan personalities like Fox News's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. The ratings picture has been nothing short of squalid: In the second quarter of 2010, CNN was down 20% for the full day and 27% in primetime among viewers age 25 to 54, the demographic most important to advertisers.
Jautz is the obvious candidate to succeed Klein, having overseen HLN's transformation from its previous incarnation as Headline News, offing bite-sized updates, to what it is now, an entity in the dominant mode of cable news, driven by big personalities like Joy Behar and Nancy Grace. Once a virtual afterthought to CNN, it actually edged out its sister network in the 25-to-54 demographic during weekday primetime in the second quarter.
Still, while the change of command makes sense, it's not immediately clear why Time Warner (TWX) management pulled the trigger now rather than waiting to see the results from Klein's new programming slate, including a new debate show co-hosted by Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, and an interview show by British journalist Piers Morgan, who replaces the retiring Larry King.
CNN Replaces President Jon Klein as Makeover Looms