Commentary

TV News Needs Laughs In Trying Times -- And Competitive Growth?

In a multi-dimensional digital TV world, transformation needs to come to traditional, straight-ahead 24/7 cable TV news networks for new growth.

But what about for a different perspective? How about some comedy?

CNN, according to Semafor, is considering new prime-time news-analysis TV shows -- with a comedy spin. Think HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Think “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

Maybe now you might get a hint of why Warner Bros. Discovery's CNN went somewhat out-of-the-box in hiring Chris Licht as chairman/CEO of CNN Worldwide. Licht had been executive producer of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” -- as well as executive vice president of special programming.

This is not to say that TV producers can't shift around in genres-- from comedy to drama, from scripted to unscripted. But senior TV company executives are always looking for capable executives who might have alternative approaches -- from different backgrounds and experiences -- for new growth. Licht had both news and comedy TV production experience.

Maher would be the logical choice. The show would have guests and his usual comedic spin, as well as separate comedic segments.

Much of this makes sense. Those HBO shows are some of the most popular regular TV series on the pay TV network.

Analysts have alluded to what Fox News Channel has done with conservative group chat “The Five” and other shows that are growing in popularity -- offering a mashup of loosely entertaining and political content.

Even MSNBC has been considering carrying the likes of “Late Night with Seth Meyers."

Mind you, traditional late-night TV talk shows have always had some political content -- but it was nearly always attached to jokes or the occasional U.S. presidential candidate or top political office-holder.

And then, of course, there was Stephen Colbert, who made it a career on Comedy Central being a disgruntled political observer with a heavy comedy spin on “The Colbert Report.” A good part of this act was carried, belatedly, to his CBS show. And that's when the show took off.

News is no laughing matter. And yet, during a challenging period, comedy can help to ease the tension in tough times -- and perhaps even get viewers closer to their on-air news journalists and presenters.

Breaking news and potential punchlines. Ahhh... I feel better about the world.

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