Wednesday, February 18, 2004

News veteran Kaplan to run MSNBC

The Associated Press

Veteran ABC executive and former CNN chief Rick Kaplan will replace Erik Sorenson as the head of struggling MSNBC, executives said Tuesday.

An award-winning producer at ABC News, Kaplan headed CNN's domestic operations from 1997 to 2000. After teaching for a time at Harvard, Kaplan returned to ABC to help plan Iraq war coverage and remained as a senior executive.

Sorenson has been MSNBC's president and general manager since 1998. The network has remained a distant third in the news competition to Fox News Channel and CNN despite several attention-getting attempts to catch up.

MSNBC has averaged 373,000 viewers in prime time this season, compared with CNN's 927,000 and Fox's 1.62 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

While MSNBC generally draws a younger audience than its competitors, it has suffered an identity crisis brought in partly by its frequent and abrupt shifts in focus.

Shows with Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura failed to catch on, and conservative Michael Savage was fired for anti-gay comments.

The network recently hired Deborah Norville for a prime-time talk show. Keith Olbermann and Joe Scarborough are the network's other prime-time hosts.

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