Lizzie Kerner is CNN’s Senior Director of Development and Original Series. Based in Los Angeles, Kerner’s small department of 5 oversees production of CNN’s original series including Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man, Alex Gibney’s Death Row Stories and The Hunt with John Walsh. Brits In The Box caught up with Kerner over lunch to find out more about what CNN is looking for.
CNN is the trusted network for breaking news and politics. Kerner’s department is looking for smart non-fiction entertainment programming on topics that Kerner says Anderson Cooper would be able to talk about for two minutes.
- Needs to be interesting and provocative
- Entertaining and educational
- High brow – You want the viewer to talk about the issues being covered, and the subject to be a part of a larger conversation
- Topics interesting to Americans
An even male / female split aged 25 – 54, but skewing towards those in their 40s
Slot Time & Duration:
9 – 10pm Sundays and Thursdays, but will start rolling out original programming at this time throughout the week.
6 – 8 episodes (1 hour long).
What They Want More Of:
- Talent Driven series (with more diverse talent)
- Crime with high production values – Kerner cited Alex Gibney’s Death Row Stories and The Hunt (an elevated form of America’s Most Wanted which feels like a movie with facts) as examples
- Proving or disproving facts – Eg. Nutopia’s ‘The Jesus Code’.
- An interesting perspective – Bourdain’s Parts Unknown works as it shows the world through the eyes of an American
- Repeatable evergreen originals
- Open to trying different formats, but it has to be the smart way in
What They Want Less Of:
- Pausing on Spurlock type series
- Hesitant about drama reconstruction
- News, leave that to CNN News
- Time sensitive subjects which aren’t repeatable
How To Pitch:
Via your Agent or Attorney (if you don’t have either then CNN is open to collaborations / partnerships).
Originals Currently In Production / Airing:
The 2014 slate saw 9 series commissions including:
- The Hunt hosted by John Walsh – Zero Point Zero
- This Is Life hosted by Lisa Ling – Premiering in the USA on September 28th.
- Death Row Stories – Alex Gibney / Robert Redford
- The Jesus Code – Nutopia
- Somebody’s Gotta Do It – Mike Row, Pilgrim Pictures