News

CNN to air Lou Dobbs 7 nights a week

Gail Shister
The Philadelphia Inquirer

For CNN, the more Dobbs, the merrier.

Lou Dobbs' provocative weeknight franchise will expand to seven nights a week with the launch of a weekend edition Oct. 28.

That exclusive CNN club currently has one member -- Larry King.

Like "Lou Dobbs Tonight," "Lou Dobbs This Week" will be telecast at 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It will include reports from earlier in the week as well as fresh segments, to be taped on Fridays.

In addition to a hot new book ("The War on the Middle Class"), Dobbs, 61, continues to hit viewers' sweet spot by focusing on such issues as border security and economic issues affecting middle-class Americans.

"To his credit, Lou didn't come up with these topics in focus groups," says CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein. "He did them before anyone was talking about them, because they were important."

In the last year, "those issues have gained urgency in the minds of ordinary viewers," Klein adds. "They now see he was on to something. ... They're tuning in to see what all the fuss is about."

Fuss, indeed.

"Dobbs Tonight," featuring news, debate and opinions, averages 762,000 total viewers in 2006 -- up 22 percent from the same period last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Among ad-friendly 25-to-54-year-olds, Dobbs' average is 202,000 viewers, a 4 percent increase.

Fox News Channel's Brit Hume dominates the 6-to-7 p.m. slot with 1.35 million total viewers, a 2 percent drop from 2005. His viewership among adults 25 to 54, however, has dropped 14 percent, to 306,000.

At No. 3 MSNBC, Tucker Carlson (and his predecessor, Dan Abrams) average 252,000 total viewers at 6 p.m., down 6 percent. In the targeted demographic, they have fallen 9 percent, to 101,000.

"I continue to focus on issues that matter to our audience," says Dobbs, who flogged his book Wednesday night on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" on Comedy Central.

The similarity of those issues -- and Dobbs' opinions -- to cable leader Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel is news to Dobbs. He says he has never watched an episode of "The Factor" in its entirety.

"I don't watch the evening newscasts, either," Dobbs says. "For that matter, I don't watch 'Grey's Anatomy,' either."

Klein watches the evening newscasts. A CBS alum, he's high on new "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric. "I love her on the air. It's refreshing to see a woman in that role, and it gives them a star with fire in the belly. The real test will be two years from now."

In a dubious distinction he'll most likely regret making, Klein anoints Couric as "the sexiest of the news anchors. The shoulders don't hurt, and the legs have to be considered."

Dobbs, whom Klein labels "an aggressive independent," will coanchor CNN's election- night coverage Nov. 7 with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper.

Some media critics have expressed concern over a network's using such an outspoken, opinionated newsman for live election coverage.

"I'm an issues-oriented advocacy journalist," Dobbs says. "I give my opinions on my broadcast, but I focus solely on news, without comment, during half of my broadcast."

Dobbs says he will be reporting, not commentating, on election night. His only concern, he says, is that some critics will jump to conclusions and "might fail to take into account my 30 years' reporting."

Network-wise, there continues to be no love lost between No. 1 Fox News Channel and once-untouchable CNN. FNC last week marked its 10th anniversary.

"They've had nine great years," Klein says. "Their 10th, unfortunately, hasn't been such a great one. They have a lot of work to do."

The median age of Fox News viewers is 63, compared with 60 for CNN and 56 for MSNBC, according to Nielsen.

Says Klein: "The unfortunate thing about Fox's 10th anniversary is that most of their viewers aren't going to be around for their 20th."

Returning the shot, an FNC rep says Klein "should be more concerned with keeping his job in the next year than speculating about our audience in the next 10."

___

Kathy Najimy will join CBS crime drama "Numbers" as the chair of the physics and math departments at the university where Charlie (David Krumholtz) works.

The recurring role marks Najimy's first major on-screen series gig since Kirstie Alley's 1997-2000 "Veronica's Closet" on NBC. Najimy voices Peggy Hill and others on Fox's animated "King of the Hill."

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