CNN, the 24-hour cable news channel owned by Time Warner Inc., is replacing Jon Klein as head of the U.S. network with HLN’s Ken Jautz after losing viewers to competitors such as Fox News.
Klein, who ran CNN U.S. for six years, is leaving the company, Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, wrote today in a memo to staff. Scot Safon, CNN Worldwide’s chief marketing officer, will replace Jautz as executive vice president of HLN, the CNN sister station formerly known as CNN Headline News.
CNN, once the leader in 24-hour news, is revamping its management and lineup after viewers defected to News Corp.’s Fox News, now the most-watched cable news outlet, and NBC Universal’s MSNBC. CNN hired Piers Morgan this month to replace talk-show host Larry King and added a program with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker.
“We thought it was important to go ahead and make the moves before we launched these new programs,” Walton, 52, said today on a conference call. “We didn’t want any disruption once the programs were on the air.”
Klein, in a phone interview, said he met with Walton on Sept. 22, and that the decision to replace him came as a surprise. He said he’s disappointed he won’t oversee the debuts of the new shows, anchored by talent that he unearthed.
“I respect the decision,” Klein said. “These things happen in our business. I’ll enjoy watching those shows.”
Instead, it will be Jautz, 52, who must guide the new shows to fruition and turn around domestic prime-time ratings.
“We need to be more engaging and lively and passionate and compelling and sometimes fun in our programs,” Jautz said today in a phone interview. “You can fault CNN for its ratings, but you can’t fault CNN for its journalism.”
Jautz, who is assuming the title of executive vice president of CNN/U.S., oversaw the rebranding of HLN and a more than doubling of the channel’s prime-time ratings with the addition of programs such as “Nancy Grace,” “Joy Behar” and “ShowBiz Tonight.”
He “has a rich history with CNN -- as a reporter, bureau chief, programmer and news executive -- and comes to this position with a proven track record,” Walton said in a statement.
Jautz also managed CNNfn, CNN Money and N-TV, a German national news channel. He joined CNN in 1989 as bureau chief in Germany.
CNN is trying to fill the newly created role of executive vice president and managing editor for CNN Worldwide. This executive will lead collaboration across all networks and platforms, Walton said in the memo.
CNN doesn’t rank among the most-watched cable channels, according to data from Nielsen Co. Fox News is averaging 2.02 million viewers a night during prime time this year, ranking as the fourth most-watched among all cable channels, according to Nielsen.
“I don’t shy away from using the word ‘opinion,’” Jautz said. “We should provide opinion. We should be nonpartisan and provide opinion from all aspects of the spectrum.”
The focus on CNN’s domestic, prime-time ratings has been frustrating because “CNN is not broken,” Walton said on the call. He said the network is focused on driving ratings momentum and continuing to boost profit.
Safon, 50, joined CNN Worldwide eight years ago as senior vice president of marketing and promotion, and has since overseen such efforts for “Anderson Cooper 360,” “Larry King Live” and “The Situation Room.”
Time Warner, based in New York, rose 61 cents, or 2 percent, to $31.37 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 7.7 percent this year.
CNN has discussed partnerships with broadcast news outlets and an arrangement might be reached by May 2011, Time Warner Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said in May.
Despite weaker ratings after the U.S. presidential election in 2008, CNN had a record year of profitability in 2009, Time Warner said in March. Walton said today that CNN is headed for its seventh consecutive year of profit growth.