LOS ANGELES - CNN is revamping "American Morning" for the second time in two years, bringing in network newcomers John Roberts and Kiran Chetry to replace anchors Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien.
"American Morning" has lagged in the ratings while the rest of the news channel's schedule is up by double digits, CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein said in announcing the changes Wednesday.
"We think we can do even better and we think the show deserves to," Klein told a telephone news conference. The "hard news" focus on "American Morning" will continue, he said.
Miles O'Brien and Soledad O'Brien, who are unrelated, are both staying at the network as special correspondents.
Roberts has been a rising star at CNN, which he joined in February 2006 after a 14-year career at CBS. Besides serving as senior national correspondent, he's been host of the weekend show "This Week at War" and filled in as an anchor on "American Morning" and other programs.
Klein described Roberts as a "classic news anchor" who's also distinguished himself at CNN as a reporter on stories including the Israel-Lebanon war and the war in Iraq.
At CBS, Roberts was a correspondent, anchor and a regular substitute for Dan Rather on "CBS Evening News."
As for Chetry, who joined CNN in February from Fox News Channel, "one look at her tells you why she deserves the spot," Klein said. "She's a terrific anchor who lights up the screen."
Chetry began working in local TV news in 1995 in Rockville, Md., and later in Erie, Pa., and Sacramento. She joined Fox News in 2001. At CNN, she has anchored programs including "CNN Newsroom."
Asked if switching anchors can make a significant ratings difference, Klein said more than that has been changing at the show: There are additional contributors and the story count is up.
The program is delivering "on the promise of the most news in the morning," he said.
"American Morning," which airs 6-9 a.m. EDT weekdays, posted a 3 percent ratings increase among advertiser-favored viewers ages 25 to 54 compared with the first quarter of last year. But it's down 6 percent among total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research figures.
By comparison, CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer is up between 20 and 25 percent in total viewers compared with the first quarter of last year. Overall, CNN is up 15 percent in viewership for the first quarter '07.
CNN is eager to fix weak spots in its schedule as it attempts to narrow the gap with leader Fox News Channel, which recently has faced flat ratings. Fox had a 1 percent increase in total viewers for the first quarter, while CNN saw its viewership rise 15 percent.
The anchors who are leaving "American Morning" were paired on the show in 2005 when Miles O'Brien replaced Bill Hemmer. Soledad O'Brien had joined "American Morning" in 2003.
They now will be able to pursue their "passion," Klein said: in-depth reporting for Soledad O'Brien and science and aviation stories for Miles O'Brien.
Soledad O'Brien has been named anchor and special correspondent and will join "CNN: Special Investigations Unit" to report on significant U.S. and international stories, CNN said. Klein cited her work on Hurricane Katrina as an example of her reporting skills.
Miles O'Brien, the channel's veteran space correspondent, will serve as chief technology and environment correspondent.