CNN has snatched Kasie Hunt, the Capitol Hill correspondent long viewed as a rising star at NBC News, as part of an aggressive bid to push the WarnerMedia cable-news outlet into the new frontier of streaming video.
Hunt surprised viewers Friday on her early-morning MSNBC program, “Way Too Early,” by revealing that she was doing her last broadcast of the show. “This is going to be my final broadcast with all of you,” she said, vowing to reveal details of “my new adventure in the next few weeks.” What she did not disclose, according to two people familiar with the matter, is that she will join CNN to focus largely on content that is produced for streaming viewers as part of a big bet being made by Jeff Zucker, president of CNN.
CNN is trying to hire dozens of people to help fuel its move into the streaming arena, and one person familiar with the matter said Hunt was offered an annual salary of between $1 million and $1.5 million that NBC News felt it simply could not match. This person suggested that Hunt could play a pivotal role in CNN’s streaming efforts, appearing online at moments of great national importance, such as during presidential elections.
She has played an increasingly large role at NBC News, where she has worked since 2013. After working as an off-air producer, Hunt gained traction by holding fort on a Sunday night MSNBC program, “KasieDC,” before taking over the cable-news outlet’s early-morning slot on weekdays. But she has also been a regular presence on “NBC Nightly News” and “Meet the Press” and filled in for anchor Chuck Todd on his “MTP Daily.” More significant, perhaps, is the fact that she had started to co-anchor NBC News’ coverage with Todd on big political nights on NBC News Now, the news outlet’s new streaming outlet.
All of the nation’s big TV-news divisions have begun to focus more intently on streaming video, well aware that a rising generation of news aficionados are getting their headlines from Twitter feeds and smartphone alerts. CBS News, which got in early to the game with CBSN, has been combined with its parent company’s local TV stations, and the combined entity has already begun producing special reports led by local-news anchors on the ground at events of great interest, like the collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida. MSNBC earlier this week announced it was developing programs from top anchors like Mika Brzezinski and Nicolle Wallace for its parent company’s Peacock outlet. ABC News has broken down walls between streaming and linear programming, enlisting producers from its streaming efforts for its “GMA3” on ABC and elevating streaming anchor Linsey Davis to anchor a weekend broadcast of “World News Tonight.” And Fox News continues to bolster its Fox Nation streaming outlet with additional content — and in May announced it would make its linear primetime opinion broadcasts available on the service the day after they air.
As these outlets have pressed forward, CNN has held back. Even so, executives have been considering several ideas for streaming in recent months, and have both tested pilots with new anchor candidates and mulled the potential for anchors and correspondents to get involved with programming and topics that play to their areas of passion and expertise. Any subscription product would not necessarily be limited to video. There have been discussions about concepts like newsletters and other formats.
Some prominent subscription-video services also serve up other types of content to people willing to pay. ESPN’s ESPN Plus, for example, has put some big analysis and feature pieces behind its paywall as well as tools for fantasy-sports fans.
At NBC News, many of Hunt’s colleagues were stunned by her move, according to a person familiar with the matter. A handful of colleagues learned about her looming departure late last night and still, others found out as they woke up this morning. Colleagues taking part in a conference call this morning among staffers at NBC News’ Washington bureau offered tributes to her, this person says, and some became emotional.