‘CNN This Morning’ debuts as work continues on its permanent home

CNN’s new attempt at a morning show debuted Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, from a temporary home that emphasizes a light and airy look that contrasts with its predecessor’s more hard-hitting feel and loft-like look.

CNN This Morning,” which is replacing “New Day,” is broadcasting temporarily from Studio 19X in the network’s 30 Hudson Yards building in New York City, a space that was originally designed by Clickspring Design as a flexible space with numerous movable set and video walls that can also accommodate a studio audience. 

It’s been used in the past for town-hall style programs as well as for the single episode of “The Don Lemon Show” that streamed on CNN+ in April 2022 before the streamer was shut down.

CNN has previously said that the show will only be in the space temporarily, and Lemon noted that on-air Nov. 1 as well. 

There has been no word on where “This Morning” will end up, though the old “New Day” space in Studio 19Y is presumably available. 

CNN did not respond to multiple requests for comment from NewscastStudio on the “This Morning” launch or possible updates to studio spaces.

Studio 17N, a working newsroom set that had been used by “Early Start” and select “CNN Newsroom” editions have stopped showing up on air in recent weeks, with anchors sitting in front of digital recreations of it or other backgrounds, though it’s not clear why.

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For “This Morning,” the network placed a series of the space’s movable LED panels into a large, curved stretch that, in turn, showcased a mashed-up city skyline starting with San Fransisco on camera left and New York camera right, with other prominent U.S. city landmarks visible in between.

This is what co-anchors Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins sit in front of for most of the show.

That’s in stark contrast to the “New Day” look that focused more on New York and Washington, D.C. backgrounds, the two locales the show was produced out of during its run, with more recent editions often split between the two.

A schematic, provided by Clickspring Design, that illustrates the various movable LED walls and scenery in Studio 19X that can be used to create a variety of unique looks.

The video wall also included a simulated wood header with the show logo rendered to appear as if it was done in dimensional lettering affixed to the wood.

The space’s circular LED riser with lightbox extensions that make it square were used, with the combined riser placed so that the one of the square’s corners pointed directly back toward the video wall. 

The circular part of used to show the date in set against a pastel background.

Meanwhile, open credenza-style units are placed along the two rear sides of the square with a small collection of decorative items on display.

CNN appears to have added a faux wood finished to at least part of the studio’s floor, which is normally a glossy black, as well as the hard scenic borders of the riser and lightboxes, which were metallic in the past, though it’s not immediately clear if these are permanent or temporary or to what extent it was done.

Studio 19X’s scrim is uplit in a combination of pale orange from the bottom and appeared to terminate in an off-white gray shade near the top. There also appears to be a gobo effect that adds segmented shapes suggestive of the CNN logo to this part of the background.

Segments of LED, some of which are suspended from a track system in the ceiling were placed around home base, while other areas featured portions of the off-white movable walls in the space. 

The primary video wall background features a simulated wood header, angled sides and a knee wall of sorts behind the anchor desk, with similar looks being used on other LED surfaces throughout the space. CNN, like many other networks, has been using video walls more and more to simulate additional scenic elements behind talent.

These often include the look of wood slats arranged both horizontally and vertically with an occasional bold red one breaking things up visually.

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The show appeared to place a big emphasis on having all three hosts involved in every segment — as opposed to just one or two handling certain ones while the others seemingly disappear for periods of time as many other morning shows do.

While one-shots of each host were used, it appeared more common to have all three on-camera, even while only one was talking, which sometimes started to feel a bit awkward since the other anchors tried to follow the age-old rule of TV anchoring — only look at the camera, your scripts or your co-anchors when on air.

The three-shots did work better two when hosts engaged in brief banter, a hallmark of CNN CEO Chris Licht’s producing style, between each other at the top of the show and coming in and other of select blocks, since each of them tended to get a chance to talk in rather quick succession. 

Mics were also left open as the show went to breaks so that viewers could hear the anchors continue to chat about a story or something amusing that just happened. 

In-studio interviews were done at the anchor desk, with options to place the guest on either side, though in one case, former “Today” co-anchor and current HBO host Bryant Gumble took Harlow’s normal spot next to Lemon for the final segment.

Harlow swung around the oval desk, placing her in a quasi-reverse position that had her facing the guest and other co-anchors.

Remote interviews could have a feed of the correspondent or guest shown on a video wall, with a wide cross-shot capturing all three anchors looking toward the image.

For the debut show, another alternative venue was created with a standing-height desk resembling a kitchen counter and peacock-blue open shelving units brought in. 

Select portions of the set’s tracking LED video panels were used to create the look of subway tile and chalkboards that created the look of faux coffee house menu boards.

Despite the less formal feel of this area, it did not mark the introduction of cooking segments on CNN’s morning shows — at least not Nov. 1. 

Instead, it was used on debut day for the trio of anchors to chat with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the science behind why humans are resistant to change, with that topic being tied in to the new show and the anchor’s new schedules.

Other portions of the movable video walls in the space are used to showcase maps, lists and other graphics using the walk and wander floating camera style combined with video on video shots. 

The temporary set notably eliminates the faux exposed brick and loft-like fixtures that “New Day” used on its set for years — replaced with the lighter wood tones and slat-like elements, along with the distinctive feel of the red elements. 

It’s not immediately clear if the show’s permanent home will have a similar look or if the graphics are permanent, though it would likely make sense to keep at least some of the look and feel the same when the switch happens given that the network is presumably trying to build a brand around the new offering. 

The “CNN This Morning” graphics package followed many of the same elements found in the on-set video wall graphics, with a light blonde wood tone serving as a primary background.

The open features various views of a 3D CNN logo filling in with small red gel-like polygons that form a sort of wave along with yellow, orange and red vertical slats rising and falling out of the wood surface, creating the feel of a sound wave.

Also used in opens, fullscreens and on-set graphics are oversized pieces of the CNN logo made to appear as dimensional carved wood elements and often filled with repeating text of major city names from around the world.

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A shorter version of the open was used for rejoins, with the option to have a portion of the wood surface rotates as an animated transition from the graphics to studio shots.

Another version of the same animation is used for bumps going to breaks and uses a slightly wider viewport with a subtle shadow added over the scene that features vertical and diagonals as a nod to the strokes in the CNN logo.

The bold red from that logo appears in both slat accents as well as in large boxes used as both accents and as a background behind lists of text or quotes. In some ways, this is a nod to how the network often displays its logo in a red box and also draws inevitable comparisons to the old “New Day” logo.

In those cases, the red rectangle gets a highly glossy edge that matches the gel-like feel of the polygons in the open. 

Despite the “CNN This Morning” logotype not using CNN Sans, the network’s bespoke font, it’s used almost everywhere else throughout the graphics package, including the standard lower thirds that remain the same as ones used on other CNN broadcasts.

The show does not use traditional teases with fullscreen video or graphics with an anchor voiceover. Instead, the three anchors each take turns reading a tease while a graphic in the lower left of the screen with topical imagery and headline set in the “This Morning” font is shown. 

This has some similar to how “New Day” previously teased stories using a circle that was designed to appear to be floating next to or between the anchors. 

Teases were also placed after a brief period of chatting with sometimes odd transitions and perhaps could have benefitted from being a bit faster paced to avoid showing the two non-speaking anchors starting awkwardly into the camera, shuffling papers or glancing at whoever was talking.

Like many other CNN shows, the studio also has the option to use a mobile touchscreen panel with a correspondent walking from nearby the anchor desk to where it’s positioned in one part of the studio. 

“CNN This Morning” drops the hard-hitting theme used on the latest iteration of “New Day” in favor of a lighter, more upbeat track, though it appears to have at least one different cut, that has a more serious note.

“CNN This Morning” and its performance will likely be a key signal in how Licht and new owners Warner Bros. Discovery’s new approach to the network, which is reportedly meant to be more centrist, will play out in the ratings.

The network culled all three of “This Morning” hosts from different dayparts and responsibilities, including pulling Collins off the White House beat. Lemon had been hosting in primetime, while Harlow was anchoring dayside. 

The network is also running a temporary schedule through the 2022 midterm elections, including a replacement show for “Don Lemon Tonight.”

“New Day” debuted back in 2013 as one of the key initiative by then newly-appointed CEO Jeff Zucker, who was once executive producer of “Today.”

The show never managed to make a significant impact in the ratings, despite multiple talent shuffles and format changes. 

CNN opted to keep the show’s look largely the same when it moved from the network’s formerly facility in TimeWarner Center to Hudson Yards, though Jack Morton Worldwide, who designed by sets, did incorporate some updates and significantly expanded the scale.

Correction: Earlier versions of this story had video clips with incorrect credits. The videos have been revised.

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