John Berman is leaving ABC News for CNN where he’ll join the network's 5-7 a.m. program Early Start to anchor alongside Ashleigh Banfield and Zoraida Sambolin.
Berman – who spent 17 years at ABC News where he logged countless hours on the political beat including more hours than any other reporter with then-candidate George W. Bush on the 1999 campaign trail – will also contribute to CNN’s other programs including Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room.
In making the announcement on Wednesday, Ken Jautz, CNN executive vp, characterized Berman as “a talented and seasoned journalist” and “a skilled reporter.”
Added Mark Whitaker, CNN Worldwide executive vice president and managing editor: "John is an exceptional journalist who brings with him the perspective of having covered many of the last two decades' most significant stories. His coverage of the past four presidential elections, experience as an embedded journalist in Iraq, on-site reporting during the 2006 war in Lebanon, plus his pop culture interest and acumen, make him a strong asset to our team.”
In an email to staffers announcing Berman’s departure, ABC News president Ben Sherwood noted Berman's versatility and creativity. "Inside our building when we brainstorm, there’s a reason that we often exclaim: 'That’s a John Berman story,’" wrote Sherwood. "He is a gifted writer who brings a singular voice and flair to everything he does.”
CNN’s still nascent morning shows including Soledad O’Brien’s Starting Point have struggled to catch on since they were launched last January. For first quarter 2012, Early Start averaged only 152,000 total viewers with 67,000 in the 25-54 demographic upon which most news programming is sold. Starting Point was only marginally better, pulling in just 245,000 total viewers with 97,000 in the demo. Those marked the lowest first quarter morning ratings at CNN in nearly ten years.
Berman’s hire is the second staff announcement from CNN in as many days. On Tuesday, the network sent tremors through the foodie universe when it announced that chef-author Anthony Bourdain would leave Travel Channel in order to anchor a weekend No Reservations-esque program on CNN beginning in early 2013.
Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie