CNN Redraws the International News Map

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How the cable news powerhouse reprogrammed itself into an 'Intelligence Network'

Finding a New Rallying Cry

With global news becoming an increasingly commoditized platform and international news channels in danger of being eclipsed by crowd-sourced providers, CNN International (CNNI) seized the opportunity to reinvent its mission. Building on its leadership heritage—CNN was the first cable news channel to offer global coverage 24/7—CNNI partnered with ?What If! to develop a bold new position that would not only differentiate the network within the evolving news market, but also inspire employees to develop and deliver uniquely engaging programming.

Today, CNN estimates it reaches 249 million homes (not to mention hotels, planes, and businesses) around the world.

CNNI and ?What If! identified the breakthrough opportunity: Become the world’s first ‘Intelligence Network’.

Intelligence, Not News

With help from ?What If!, CNNI realized its audience had fundamentally changed—from traveling businessmen switching on the news in their hotel rooms to an internationally connected viewership hungry to see and understand what’s happening in the regions they care about. Together, CNNI and ?What If! identified the breakthrough opportunity: Become the world’s first “Intelligence Network,” offering up more in-depth stories and analyses of world events to equip viewers with an understanding beyond the coverage competitors were delivering.

New Platform, New Shows, New Profits

Based on this future-focused business strategy, CNNI and ?What If! innovated the channel’s programming, operations, and brand identity. Some highlights of the channel’s 2008-2009 relaunch:

  • Refreshing its longtime tag line (“Be the First to Know”). “Go Beyond Borders” became the organization’s new rallying cry and clearly stated CNN International’s “commitment to delivering intelligent news in a connected world.”

  • A complete redesign of the channel’s look and feel, including a “This is CNN” graphic announced in myriad languages.

  • Two new shows: Back Story, offering a behind-the-scenes look at how the news is made, and Connect the World, a deep dive into big regional events.

  • Opening a production center in Abu Dhabi and launching
    Prism, a daily news show broadcast live from the Middle East that placed CNNI front and center in an arena of intense international interest.

Within a year of the relaunch, prime time viewership was up 5 percent. Today, CNN reaches more than 200 million homes (not to mention hotels, planes, and businesses) in over 200 countries.

Within a year of the relaunch, primetime viewership was up 5%.

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