Soledad O'Brien is ending her morning-show contract with CNN and is moving on to form her own documentary production company that will supply the network with programming on a nonexclusive basis.
O'Brien's departure has been coming for some time. Even before president Jeff Zucker took over in January, he said he planned to cancel O'Brien's program, “Starting Point.”
CNN hasn't formally announced the details for a new morning show to replace O'Brien's.
Zucker has already said, though, that the show will be co-hosted by Chris Cuomo, who recently left ABC, and many network sources believe CNN prime-time host Erin Burnett will join him.
O'Brien's new company, Starfish Media Group, will produce long-form content for other networks and partners, according to a statement on CNN’s website
. She said the venture will allow for programming that examines under-the-radar stories.
“The new partnership opportunity allows me to focus on what I love to do the most, and to focus on the next stage of my career, owning my own work,” she said, “At CNN, I am grateful to have been able to tell often underreported stories and confront difficult topics. In the new production venture, I will continue to shine a light on what we all find most interesting about America.”
O’Brien expanded on her move in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter: “We will produce movies-of-the-week, we’ll produce films, we’ll produce scripted TV, nonscripted TV, documentaries, curriculum, public events.
“The idea is to get some of these stories that fly under the radar to be the focus of a conversation, and we can sort of take a brand that’s been very successful and leverage that a bit.”
She will produce two installments of her “Black in America” series for CNN, but she is now a free agent who will produce documentaries for other networks.
“Starting Point” was one of CNN's lowest-rated shows, attracting an average of just around 234,000 viewers a day last year, marking CNN's smallest morning audience in a decade.
O'Brien, though, said she was proud of the show and her tough interviews, saying, “We became relevant in an important election.”
Republican guests and viewers, though, saw her confrontational style differently, saying it reflected her liberal bias. John Sununu, a frequent guest on the show, told Politico late last year he counted O’Brien as one of the “triumvirate” of Obama spokeswomen: “There’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Stephanie Cutter, and Soledad O’Brien.”
O'Brien, meanwhile, said the show never got “a ton of support” from the network, but it was still able to drive stories. In addition, even though she is working with the new production company, she remains open to appearing on-camera on other networks in the future.
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