Speculation on Soledad O’Brien’s Fate

The new CNN president, Jeff Zucker, plans to replace her morning show. Where will she land? 

Soledad O'Brien speaking with Sen. Dan Coats (screenshot from Starting Point)
Soledad O'Brien speaking with Sen. Dan Coats (screenshot from Starting Point)

The announcement that CNN is totally revamping its morning show and scrapping Soledad O’Brien‘s ‘Starting Point’ has sent shivers through her staff,” Betsy Rothstein wrote Wednesday for FishbowlDC.

“Insiders tell us Executive VP Ken Jautz and VP Bart Feder addressed the staff after the show went off the air today. Suffice it to say, the era of Jeff Zucker is under way.

“In a nutshell, the execs said they have no answers for the staff and were unable to address most of their questions. Members of the staff were assured their jobs were safe, but one veteran of the changing show carousel at CNN says they would be naive to believe that.

” ‘Every single one of these people should be preparing their resumes and trying to get out of that building as fast as possible,’ a network insider told FishbowlDC, explaining that staffers are worried for their jobs. The prevailing feeling is that O’Brien, who previously worked with Zucker at NBC, will end up in another role.

“For the month of January, ‘Starting Point’ drew an average of 264,000 viewers. MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ drew 468,000 and FNC’s ‘Fox & Friends’ drew 1.07 million. ‘Morning Express’ on HLN drew 218,000. The broadcast shows (CBS, ABC, NBC) drew millions more than any of the aforementioned programs. In other words, ‘Starting Point’ is behind everyone except its sister network HLN, and HLN is getting close.

“. . . Many staffers were stunned when Feder constantly complained that the viewership of ‘Early Start’ and ‘Starting Point’ was ‘too ethnic,’ based on the high concentration of minority viewers. This common complaint worked itself up through the company, to CNN’s Diversity Committee, and to other staffers, who were mortified that a CNN executive was squabbling over attracting minority viewers.

“For all of the talk that ‘Starting Point’ has been a failure, CNN execs have few to blame. Phil Kent, CEO of Turner, CNN’s parent company, is said to have hated the show and O’Brien in particular. Sources say he routinely ripped the show in the past six months.”

Still, “A CNN spokeswoman said in an e-mail Tuesday, ‘Soledad is very important to the network, and we’re discussing various options with her,’ ” Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times.

Dylan Byers and Mackenzie Weinger added Tuesday night, “Jeff Zucker promised to change CNN. He’s doing so, and fast.