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7 Things CNN Can Do To Make Us Watch Again

You've probably heard the latest report about CNN's terrible ratings. Here's what they could do to turn things around.

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1. Create an AM show around Erin Burnett with Michael Steele and Ed Rendell.

Here's why:

• "Early Start" is getting killed in the ratings. HLN's "Morning Express" is beating them in every demo. [Morning Cable News Ratings, April 30, 2012]

• Erin Burnett's prime-time show is just not working out. [7PM Cable News Ratings, April 30, 2012]

• She's much better with co-hosts.

• Michael Steele and Ed Rendell are really good on cable and deserve everyday gigs. MSNBC will never give them anything like that, making them easy to poach. Sure, they're under contract at MSNBC but CNN is flush with cash and could easily buy them out.

• Wether it's politics, sports, pop culture or finance, all three can B.S. their way through any topical segment like total pros. [Michel Steele's A Rabid “Glee” Fan -]

• The inevitable crossfires between Rendell and Steele are sure to be more watchable than the typical cacophony of arguing Morning Joe regularly offers up, and way more insightful than what ever it is that they do over at Fox & Friends.

2. Stop pre-taping your shows/segments!

Pre-taping definitely makes everyone's lives easier when it comes to scheduling guests or working with diva talent, but it totally kills the fun of watching cable-news. The unpredictability of combative guests in a live setting is what makes us want to spend our week nights with the same hosts asking the same questions we've heard the others ask all day long. Throwing to an obviously pre-taped segment throws a wet blanket on that live TV buzz like nothing else can.

3. Bring back "CNN After Dark" and make it a Monday through Friday show.

"At about 1:30 AM on Wednesday, when the results of the Iowa Caucuses still hadn't been finalized, CNN decided to lose its mind." - BuzzFeed (Jan 4, 2012)

"After Dark" is a perfect example of why people who love to watch cable-news love to watch LIVE cable news and CNN would do well to make a version of it a regular thing. "RedEye" on Fox News proved that there are political junkies who are up all night just begging for something to watch. Why not give the ones who weren't raised by frat boys an alternative? We know it would be impossible to maintain a line-up like the one that masterfully navigated the Iowa caucuses, but CNN could definitely pressure their stars into being team players who randomly drop by the set for some after-hours hijinks. The next morning's inevitable YouTube clips of whatever crazy thing happened on "After Dark" would create more buzz than an entire year of "John King, USA" yawn inducing interviews. SPEAKING OF WHICH...


5. Leave the pop culture stuff to Piers Morgan.

The former tabloid editor is great at talking about and interviewing celebrities. The best in prime-time. Too bad he is absolutely terrible when he's asked to analyze U.S. politics. CNN should leave the stories about pop singers and interviews with Ricky Gervais to Piers and gently push the rest of the prime-time crowd to follow MSNBC's lead and focus on the day-to-day political stories that cable-news junkies crave.

6. Time to upgrade the political contributors.

It seems like the only CNN political contributor besides Roland Martin's ascot who has any desire to make a headline is James Carville &#8211 and that's usually via his SNL persona, courtesy of Bill Hader. It's time to clear out the Castellenas, Gergens, ect. for a younger, bloggier set who aren't afraid to say something that'll turn into viral video gold.

7. Make Rachel Maddow an offer that she can't refuse and keep her at 9PM.

Maddow is a bonafide star. She's a ratings winner. She produces a quality show that is entertaining and informative. She makes the rounds on ALL the network talk shows. She mixes up a mean Jack Rose. And, as a broadcaster, she wants to reach the biggest audience possible. CNN, with their international network and ability to book diverse guests (Republicans) is a perfect choice for Maddow to reach that audience after her contract at MSNBC expires.

The fact that Roger Ailes has nice things to say about the liberal commentator means CNN might have to get in a huge bidding war with Fox when the cable giant realizes Hannity and Co. haven't made a decent headline in ages. Sure, the rating bonanza of a Maddow+Fox experiment would be amazing, but the Queen of Nice would probably prefer a friendlier environment, giving CNN an advantage.

And, for goodness sake, keep her in that 9PM slot. Piers might get a little grumpy when he's bumped to 8PM, but he'll probably crush Ed Schultz, and his Twitter wars with whatever intern is manning the O'Reilly feed could bring him some joy.

Senior Writer

Contact Dorsey Shaw at

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