CNN president Jonathan Klein exits

Ken Jautz to run CNN; primetime ratings in focus

Longtime CNN U.S. president Jonathan Klein is stepping down, and the new man in charge is charged with boosting CNN's domestic primetime ratings.

After six years running the network, CNN worldwide president Jim Walton announced Klein's departure in an email sent to the network's staff this morning.

Walton also said that two executives would take new leadership roles at CNN and HLN.

Ken Jautz is moving from HLN to CNN to run the network as executive vp.
Also, CNN Worldwide marketing executive Scot Safon, who has been directly reporting to Walton and been involved in strategic decision, will take the role of executive vp at HLN.
With the exception of Klein, all executives reporting to Walton have held executive vp titles.

In a conference call with reporters, Walton would not discuss whether Klein was fired or decided to leave himself, although he hinted at the answer by making clear he was not totally happy with CNN's performance.

"CNN is not broken," he said about the news network, saying it is "thriving as a business" and it will bring in its seventh consecutive year of profit growth this year.

But he did acknowledge that CNN domestic primetime ratings are too weak. Walton emphasized that he is "not satisfied" with them. "They clearly need to get better." He also told reporters that he makes changes because he likes to win.

While CNN remains committed to serious and independent news coverage, the traditional newscast format may not work in primetime anymore, Walton said, adding the network has to be "more interesting, more entertaining." He argued: "I don't think entertaining is a bad word" when attached to news as long as it's quality news.

Why was the management reshuffle announced ahead of next month's primetime changes at CNN and net year's arrival of Piers Morgan who will take over for Larry King? Walton said he didn't want any disruptions after the changes or risk suggestions that executive changes were due to problems with the changes.

CNN is now also looking for an executive vp/managing editor to guide editorial across all platforms. Walton said the network will consider several inside candidates, as well as outside candidates. For the latter, the broadcast network news divisions could be a hunting ground, sources said.

"Ken is a rarity -- a working journalist who is an even better news executive," Walton wrote in his memo about Jautz. "The reinvention of HLN is the latest in a string of successes he has led at CNN ... To his new assignment he brings deep experience as a reporter, both overseas and in the US; a CNN-wide perspective; and relationships from multiple positions within Turner. Most importantly, he has a demonstrated ability to collaborate and lead strong teams, and a track-record of programming successes."

Jautz previously ran HLN and CNNfn and ran a German news network for CNN. Before that, he covered the first Gulf War, among other things, as a journalist.

Walton also discussed Safon's move in more detail. While his background is in marketing, Walton told reporters Friday that he has been closely involved with major decisions across CNN already, including with editorial issues. And he can surround himself with experts as needed, he added.

"He is an expert in audience targeting and development; HLN's audience is young, engaged and growing," Walton wrote about Safon in his memo. "And he is a charismatic leader who is passionate about journalism, storytelling and our brand."

CNN ratings have been on a downward trajectory the last several years, losing ground to Fox News and MSNBC. Spin-off HLN (previously called Headline News) has been one of the U.S. division's bright spots, sometimes rivaling the CNN flagship.

Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, lauded Walton for being "a world-class leader," but didn't mention Klein. "I believe these changes will position CNN/U.S. and HLN for future growth and success," he said.
comments powered by Disqus