Soledad O’Brien will depart CNN’s morning show Starting Point and start her own production company, which will have a production and distribution agreement with CNN, the network announced Thursday.
O’Brien’s company, called Starfish Media Group, will launch in June and produce three long-form programming specials for CNN in 2014, including new installments of O’Brien’s Black in America series. Starfish, with CNN, will also be the exclusive distributor of O’Brien’s previous documentaries.
Under the non-exclusive agreement, O’Brien will be free to provide documentaries to other outlets if CNN initially passes on the projects, or take hosting or reporting jobs at other networks. She told the New York Times on Thursday she will leave Starting Point this spring.
O’Brien’s exit from CNN’s mornings had been assumed for weeks, ever since new CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker hired ABC’s Chris Cuomo to headline a new morning show, likely with current primetime host Erin Burnett.
“We greatly value Soledad’s experience, and her first-rate storytelling will continue to be an asset to CNN,” said Zucker in a statement Thursday. “Documentaries and long-form story telling are important to our brand and we’re anticipating more of what we’ve come to expect from her — riveting content.”
O’Brien was moved from documentaries to CNN’s mornings in January 2012 to launch the 7-9 a.m. program Starting Point, which replaced the moribund American Morning. The change did nothing to boost the timeslot’s ratings however. Starting Point averaged 234,000 viewers in 2012, and occasionally fell below sister network HLN’s Morning Express.
Source: Broadcasting & Cable, 2/21/13