As the Mystery of Missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 mystery dragged on, Fox News Channel continued its hold on primetime Thursday in the news demo (391,000) with CNN a competitive No. 2 (321,000) followed, not closely, by MSNBC (166,000) and HLN (128,000). Piers Morgan Live, hosted by possible Morgan replacement Bill Weir (373,000), was the only CNN program to best FNC — Megyn Kelly (353,000) in the demo. But CNN took a tumble at 10 PM when the network switched from missing-plane coverage to docu-series Chicagoland (172,000). FNC’s Hannity clobbered it (331,000). Earlier in the evening, CNN’s Erin Burnett (347,000) came within 9,000 demo viewers of FNC’s Greta Van Susteren (356,000), after which FNC’s Bill O’Reilly (486,000) widened the lead, over CNN’s Anderson Cooper (420,000).
FNC Hangs On To Ratings Lead But CNN’s Bill Weir Tops His Timeslot, While NBC’s Chuck Todd Joins CNN Critics As Missing Plane Coverage Continues
CNN To Test Michael Smerconish, Jake Tapper, Bill Weir & Don Lemon In Piers Morgan’s Time Slot; Morgan’s Last Day March 28
EXCLUSIVE: Piers Morgan’s last day hosting Piers Morgan Live will be March 28, after which CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker is going to try out Michael Smerconish as well as Jake Tapper, Bill Weir, and Don Lemon in the time slot for a few weeks, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Deadline. We will actually see Weir fill in for Morgan in the time slot first, next week, but it will be just that — he’s filling in on Morgan’s show while Morgan takes a previously scheduled vacation, and he will return for one final week after that. Morgan and Zucker continue to talk about a future role for him at the network, the source said.
Morgan struggled for three years to find an audience in the important time slot, taking over for Larry King who’d been a longtime fixture at the network. Morgan was routinely beaten in the ratings by his cable competitors. His departure probably means the end of the time slot’s format — do not expect the four men to do the kind of show Morgan did, or King before him. Smerconish, Tapper and Lemon will continue to do the type of programs they’re already doing at CNN. And, the list may not be complete — Zucker may try out more talent in the slot, the source said.
UPDATE, 2:15 PM: When ABC News put out word this morning that Nightline anchor Bill Weir was leaving ABC News for “another opportunity in the news business,” The Reporters Who Cover Television began preparing their “Weir Heads To CNN” reports, figuring there was a high likelihood he would follow colleagues Jake Tapper, Chris Cuomo and John Berman to the cable news network. The development bore the signs of another Amy Entelis strike. Entelis, a 30-year ABC News vet who left as VP Talent and Strategy, and who in January 2012 was named to the newly created position of SVP Talent and Content Development at CNN Worldwide, had been given credit for the hires of the aforementioned ABC News staffers. When, several hours later, CNN made the announcement it had in fact hired Weir as an anchor – without naming any program — as well as Chief Innovation Correspondent, some of those reporters began to pick up Mediaite’s report, citing an unnamed source, that Weir had been promised all, or half, of Piers Morgan’s CNN time slot some time many months from now. CNN issued a statement “Bill Weir was not brought to CNN to replace Piers Morgan.” That seemed to put a lid on it, though some media reports continued to mull Morgan’s future at the network.
“At a time when CNN is expanding the definition of news, the former anchor of ABC News’ Nightline will work with producers to develop original programming across the schedule,” CNN had explained in its Weir announcement. “Bill’s range, sensibility and curiosity set him apart,” chimed in CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker. “He brings a unique storytelling style, perspective and sense of humor to CNN, and he will be a key player as we continue to expand our lineup.”