One domino has fallen: ABC News's senior White house correspondent Jake Tapper is leaving the network to become an anchor at CNN. It's the first big move since CNN named former NBC boss Jeff Zucker as its new boss. So let the speculation begin: Where does Tapper fit into the programming carousel?
"Jake Tapper, who has served the last four years as ABC’s senior White House correspondent and is a best-selling author, joins CNN as anchor of a new weekday program and CNN’s chief Washington correspondent," reads the release from CNN late Thursday afternoon. Poynter has one theory about the move: that Tapper wanted to host The Week.
But back to the release. The keyword here is weekday: Tapper isn't going facing off in primetime against the likes of Maddow, O'Reilly, and company. And that little clue about Tapper's hire suggests a bit more structure to rumors like Erin Burnett being groomed for a morning show, along with the one about Anderson Cooper transitioning into a full-time foreign correspondent, opening up a spot for Zucker favorite Ann Curry. Whew, did you catch all of that?
Here's CNN's current schedule (via TV Guide):
Weekday ... weekday... weekday. Hmmm. Now obviously Tapper could eat into Wolf Blitzer's three-hour block, or — okay, less exciting — get some time during the even longer dayside block. That would make sense, right? Now let's play "What if?":
- Soledad O'Brien could take over for Erin Burnett at 7 p.m., with Burnett switching to Starting Point, or some other Zucker creation — Zucker being the former Today czar.
- Anderson Cooper becomes a roving correspondent ... or Burnett's morning co-anchor.
- Ann Curry takes over at 10 p.m., for an Amanpour-meets-Dateline nightly magazine.
- Jake Tapper either follows in the daytime, eats into the Blitzer onslaught up against the network news in the 6 o'clock hour, or goes right up against O'Reilly at 8 p.m., leaving the 9-o'clock hour open for Piers Morgan, who's been on a roll after the Newtown shootings.
But that still doesn't address CNN's biggest problem: getting beat continuously by MSNBC and Fox during primetime. O'Brien has had fantastic ratings, but they're still not Maddow good. That all said, there's still a lot of spinning plates and Zucker and Tapper won't start working until the new year. And there could always be some more big hires before then.