‘CNN This Morning’ promised it would be a ‘disrupter’ — but it certainly isn’t that

By Michael P. Hill Article may include affiliate links

CNN’s newly-appointed CEO Chris Licht had promised the network’s new morning show, “CNN This Morning,” would be a “disrupter” in TV news, something that was never fully elaborated on — and the show, which debuted Nov. 1, 2022, doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting most definitions of that word.

That said, the show certainly isn’t bad and its three-person anchor team of Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, seem to have pretty good chemistry. It’s just not really disrupting anything besides the co-anchors’ sleep schedules, as they admitted on air Nov. 1.

“This Morning” is broadcasting out of a temporary home while a new, permanent, set is built for it and it’s never been clarified if the show took on the so-called disruptor format Nov. 1 or if it’s a temporary format, too.

MixDex’s sister site, NewscastStudio, reach out to CNN multiple times for comment and did not receive a reply.

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher why the network opted to launch the show Nov. 1, after its announcement Sept. 15, 2022, rather than wait until the set could be built and, perhaps, some of the format and on-air look could be refined.

It’s possible the network wanted the new show in place for the November ratings period and the 2022 midterms, but so far that hasn’t appeared to pay off, which its debut ratings down over “New Day.”

Licht helped CBS re-launch “CBS This Morning” back in 2012. That show, now known as “CBS Mornings,” still remains in last place among the big three networks, though it’s posted some promising signs of growth over the years.

The format of the show was driven heavily by using three anchors who would engage in banter in between stories and often approach interviews as a team.

Licht also did away with a national weather anchor and newsreader, two roles common on morning TV at the time, and also focused more on hard news and purposefully had the set designed without any sofa or kitchen set beyond the glassed-in green rooms.

“CBS This Morning” had been showing signs of growth in the months leading up to public sexual misconduct allegations against co-anchor Charlie Rose. Rose was eventually fired and the show underwent a series of other anchor changes over the years, with only Gayle King, who originally would only appear later in the show, the only remaining member of the original team, which also grew and shrank in size of the years.

Licht had more success at MSNBC prior to that, where he helped create “Morning Joe,” which is now a strong performer for the network and also relies heavily on multiple anchors and contributors participating in interviews.

“CNN This Morning” also uses a three-anchor format, with all anchors seemingly held at the same level, unlike the original “New Day” format that had three anchors but with one as a “news anchor,” though that format was eventually dropped.

That said, it appears that Lemon is be portrayed as the ring leader of the show, with Harlow taking on the role of a cheerful morning show host and Collins being billed as a bit more serious, especially if one looks at the photography the network has released to promote the show that features Lemon in the center, Harlow off to one side with a broad smile in a Instagram-worthy pose and Collins off to the other side looking a bit pensive.

There is also significant chatter between anchors at the top of the show, between segments and leading in and out of breaks. The show even leaves their mics open when heading into the break, allowing viewers to hear the anchors continue to chat for a few extra segments.

At times, the show’s dedication to apparently giving all three anchors equal weight creates awkwardness, especially when one anchor is talking or asking a question solo, leaving the other two to on camera shuffling papers, starring blankly into the camera or watching their colleague talk.

The show’s content appears focused on headlines of the days, including more in-depth looks at select stories with some lighter content mixed in.

On the show’s first day, it featured a segment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the network’s medical correspondent, about why human brains are resistant to change — an almost self-deprecating segments that seemed, at times, to be trying to justify the show changing anchors and names.

This did take place in a simulated cafe-themed area, with the anchors standing behind a counter height table rather than sitting at the anchor desk. It definitely had a more casual feel.

That said, there were still no cooking segments, soft interviews with pop culture stars or musical performances, elements that are popular on the big three networks and some of which have even started showing up in “CBS Mornings.”

There appears to be heavily emphasis on in-studio or remote interviews, including with correspondents who provide “debriefs” and might answer a few questions from the anchor team.

It’s also worth noting the show largely did away with franchise segments with specific branding, such as the “Reality Check” one featured on “New Day.” The show was free to talk about sports, but didn’t feel the need to label it with a cute name, rather just presenting the story. Data-driven reporting was presented using a touchscreen, but it too didn’t get a specific name, rather using a more straightforward approach of presenting the story and how it related to the data.

Looking forward, it’s likely CNN will continue to tinker with the format of the show and once it moves to its permanent set, new elements could be added.

Depending on the scale and design of the set, it could also lend itself better to the format, such as creating an anchor desk that allows for better interaction between hosts, in-studio guests or remote reports such as elements that Licht brought to “CBS This Morning,” including the in-the-round anchor desk with vertical monitors installed around it to showcase live remote feeds and graphics.

CNN hasn’t comment on when the new set will be ready or what it will look like.