Long-form documentaries are not dead at CNN, asserts Vivian Schiller, senior vice president of CNN Productions. On the contrary, the decision to add People in the News (a half-hour program produced in conjunction with People magazine) and CNN Presents (an hour-long slot devoted to single-topic stories) is meant to reinforce the U.S. cablecaster’s commitment to long-form programming despite recent cutbacks following the AOL/Timer Warner merger (see RealScreen, Feb. 2000).
‘It’s all part of the overall restructuring at CNN,’ Schiller says. ‘There were some people concerned that CNN was going to become only a video wire service. That was never the plan. Long-form has always been an important part of the programming schedule and it continues to be. We’ve shuffled things a little bit, which leads to the announcement of these two new series.’
CNN Presents, which will air on Sunday evenings beginning on May 6, is the successor to CNN Perspectives. Schiller admits that most of the one-hour programs will be handled within CNN. ‘There are a lot of stories developed by CNN correspondents and we want to try to do those in-house.’ Independent producers haven’t been completely cut off, however. Schiller explains that CNN has recently experimented with a kind of hybrid production in which an outside producer is hired to work with a CNN correspondent. ‘We’ve done that a couple of times in the last year, and that model worked well with us.’
People in the News, which will profile individuals from the political, sports, arts or business arenas, will be totally in-house produced, Schiller says. It goes live on Saturday March 31.
CNN also annouced the addition of an original talk program, Take Five, to its weekend lineup.