March 8, 2021

Anderson Cooper Seeks to Show his Daytime Side

This week, he will spend an hour talking to Snooki about her tan.

That will not be on CNN, of course, home of his nightly hard news program, “Anderson Cooper 360.” Instead, it will be on local television stations across the country, where Mr. Cooper will begin his moonlighting job on Monday as host of a syndicated daytime talk hour, “Anderson.”

Beyond Snooki, Mr. Cooper’s first-week lineup includes an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker about her new movie, a chat with the cast of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” in the wake of the suicide of one of the husbands, and, in his opening episode on Monday, an interview with the family of the recently deceased pop singer Amy Winehouse.

These topics are not likely to be addressed on his CNN program, and that is one of the reasons Mr. Cooper wanted to expand into daytime talk. “Everybody has different sides to them,” he said in an interview by phone. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to work different jobs that show different sides of you.”

Some traditionalists may see a risk for Mr. Cooper’s news reputation in diverting himself into the more superficial fields of daytime talk. Judy Muller, who spent much of her career as a news correspondent for ABC news, and now is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, said that assessment might be expected from “an old-school reporter like me.”

Ms. Muller’s view, though, is more nuanced. “There is no doubt that Anderson Cooper has established his serious credentials. That said, there is always a risk when you move into more light-hearted venues of the likes of Snooki.”

But Mr. Cooper, she said, “is a different kind of journalist, one for the future. He is transparently who he is.”

Mr. Cooper is introducing his daytime side — he said he has been a longtime viewer of the genre — in the first week of the post-Oprah era. He enters as one of the great hopes to inherit the audience Ms. Winfrey leaves behind.

“We have high expectations,” said Hilary Estey McLoughlin, the president of Telepictures, the syndicator of Mr. Cooper’s foray into daytime talk. She said that the show can be seen by 99 percent of country. (In New York it will be seen on WPIX.)

Only about eight of the stations will be ones where Ms. Winfrey’s show used to reside, a total dwarfed by the “Dr. Oz” show, which grabbed 80 of those slots. Still, Ms. McLoughlin highlighted Mr. Cooper’s appeal as a lead-in show to local news.

That afternoon position is hotly pursued by many daytime talk show contenders. Mr. Cooper said his show would be evenly divided between openings in the morning and the afternoon. But syndicated shows that succeed often start out in the mornings and gravitate to the afternoons.

The financial riches that Ms. Winfrey reached during her long syndicated run may be impossible to attain, because syndicated shows face the same ratings erosion that afflicts broadcast entertainment programs. Daytime talk shows, however, still have the capability to reach three million to four million viewers a day and remain, in the words of Michael Nathanson, the United States media analyst for Nomura, “a significant moneymaker.”

Mr. Nathanson said the costs for daytime talk shows remained so low — many at less than $1 million a week (Mr. Nathanson estimated the first year costs for “Anderson” at $25 million to $28 million) — that anything resembling a hit could generate tens of millions in revenue or more a year. Hosts often become quite wealthy, though that, Mr. Nathanson said, may be less an incentive for Mr. Cooper, a descendant of the Vanderbilt family.

Mr. Cooper‘s deal with CNN pays him about $10 million a year. He has an undisclosed ownership interest in the talk show, one that could pay him far more if it becomes a long-running success.

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