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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

By canceling Eliot Spitzer and moving Anderson Cooper to 8 p.m., does CNN set up Cooper for failure?

parkerspiter.jpgCan the guy who couldn't compete with Greta Van Susteren or Lawrence O'Donnell take on Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann?

That's the question I'm mulling after seeing CNN's momentous changes just announced for its primetime lineup, canceling ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's In the Arena and moving signature star Anderson Cooper to 8 p.m., while John King is bumped to 6 p.m. and new hire Erin Burnett takes the stage at 7 p.m. The Cooper move is planned for Aug. 8; no date announced for Burnett's debut.

On the plus side, CNN is finally admitting its Spitzer error, lifting the neophyte commentator out of the cable newschannel's troubled primetime lineup less than a year after his controversial debut. Back in February, the woman CNN hired to try tempering outrage against the hiring of a post-scandal Spitzer, columnist Kathleen Parker, was unceremoniously dumped as co-host, setting an unacknowledged time clock on Spitzer to shine as a solo act.

Covering sex scandals such as the Anthony Weiner Twitter event or John Edwards' mistress issues was always an issue for CNN with Spitzer, who resigned from his governorship after admitting patronizing of prostitutes. And a look at his ratings revealed a serious hole in their lineup.

cooper.anderson.b.jpgBut Cooper has had his own ratings problems, regularly outpaced by Fox News and O'Donnell when he aired at 10 p.m. on MSNBC. Now CNN's top evening anchor faces off against the most popular personalities in cable news, from Olbermann on Current TV to O'Reilly on Fox News, Nancy Grace on HLN and a transplanted O'Donnell on MSNBC. (He does better than Spitzer did, but that's not saying much)

Of course, this lineup also features no anchors of color. And it also gives Coop time to get to bed so he can film his syndicated talk show during the day this fall. How he's going to help reinvent CNN's primetime lineup while also trying to take advantage of an Oprah-less talk TV field is a little above my pay grade. 

And leave it to CNN to throw good ratings after bad. Though King was showing a bit of life at 7 p.m. and was bound to be well-featured during the presidential debates coming up, the channel has moved him up one hour and brought in former CNBC/NBC News face Burnett -- perhaps best known for being creepily addressed by Hardball host Chris Matthews in an awkward comment about her beauty on air.

Spitzer released a statement, according to the New York Times, which also said CNN is still talking with him to figure out what he can do (please, please, please give him the first Anthony Weiner post-resignation interview!): "We provided diverse & valuable perspectives during the show's tenure. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at CNN."

Here's the official release:

CNN Fall Schedule (All times Eastern):

6a-9am:  American Morning
9a-4pm:  CNN Newsroom
4pm:         Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
6pm:         John King, USA
7pm:         Erin Burnett
8pm:         Anderson Cooper 360°
9pm:         Piers Morgan Tonight
10pm:      AC 360 re-air
11pm:       Erin Burnett re-air
12am:       Piers Morgan Tonight re-air

CNN Announces New Evening Lineup
Schedule Showcases Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan to Air this Fall

CNN has unveiled a new evening lineup with anchors Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan to launch this fall, it was announced today by Ken Jautz, executive vice president, CNN/U.S.

Beginning Aug. 8, CNN will broadcast its flagship nightly news program AC360, anchored by Anderson Cooper, live at 8pm and re-air it in its current timeslot of 10pm.

In the fall, CNN will premiere a new general news program with Erin Burnett, which will air at 7pm ET and re-air at 11pm ET. Piers Morgan Tonight will continue to air at 9pm and 12am ET.

John King USA will kick off the evening at 6pm. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer will continue as a two-hour daily program, airing in a new timeslot of 4-6pm. CNN Newsroom will now air from 9am-4pm. The full programming schedule is provided below.

“The new line-up showcases anchors who are experienced reporters in covering stories that span the globe,” said Jautz. “We created a nightly schedule that brings together the best of CNN’s journalism on a wide range of topics from politics and the economy to global and world events, as well the best newsmaker and celebrity interviews. This line-up ensures viewers access to the best of what CNN has to offer whenever they tune in at night.”

“I’m looking forward to the new time slot and am excited to share AC360 with a new audience at 8pm, while still connecting with my regular viewers at 10pm,” said Cooper.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 2:38pm]

    

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