CNN Can Come Alive With Chris Christie

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm on record with the prediction. I even came up with the pitch New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will use when he runs for President in 2016:

Four years ago the President and I put aside politics during one of the most important elections of our time. We united and did what was right for America. If you elect me President of the United States, that's exactly what I'll do for the next four years.
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If Time Warner ( TWX)-owned CNN is smart it will rally behind not just the man and potential candidate, but the notion of Chris Christie.

The guy appeals to most Americans, Democrat or Republican. He's overweight. He says what he thinks. He's doesn't come off as elitist, but he's hardly stupid. He loves Springsteen, but he can fall back on calling himself a Republican.

Christie looks like a diehard union card-carrying plumber, but he's pretty conservative.

And, out of what was probably genuine sadness and concern for his state -- in the interest of doing his job well -- Christie put politics aside and, whether he wanted to or not, helped Barack Obama whip Mitt Romney in the election.

CNN's ratings stink. Today, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, speaking at a Business Insider conference provided some lame rationale for why ratings don't really matter to CNN.

Lame rationale, but brilliant move. Bewkes has a way with words. He belongs in the pantheon of top CEOs that includes Jobs, Bezos and Schultz.

There's nothing better than the occasional punkslaps Bewkes throws at Netflix ( NFLX) and its CEO, Reed Hastings. He owns, in the slang sense, Netflix. Netflix is Bewkes' ... what do they say on the streets of urban America?

Bewkes threw out the line about ratings not mattering much at CNN to take pressure off of the network's new president, former Comcast ( CMCSA)/ General Electric ( GE)-owned NBCUniversal CEO, Jeff Zucker. Give the guy and his beaten-down staff some breathing room.

I was looking at television ratings a couple weeks ago. Both News Corp's ( NWSA) Fox News and MSNBC absolutely crush CNN. It's embarrassing. However, what's worse is how close CNBC comes to CNN in some dayparts and demographics.

That's not a knock on CNBC. But, bottom line, a network that serves a niche audience, relative to CNN, should not even come close ratings-wise.

It's mostly an outcome of CNN's ineptness, although CNBC has done an excellent job broadening its scope. For instance, it offered easily the best election coverage of any major network, cable or otherwise. And it delivers financial news that strikes a mass appeal accord all day long.

It's recent Rise Above campaign illustrates how CNBC gets it and CNN doesn't.

Fox and MSNBC take clearly partisan positions. That has worked well for both networks. While not partisan, CNBC took a stance with Rise Above, promoting an end to the fiscal cliff through some advocacy, strong reporting and relevant interviews with business leaders and politicians.

CNN, by and large, practices old school journalism. It reports the news. That's nothing to hang your hat on if you want to win in cable television, particularly news. CNN needs to blur the lines, just like Fox, MSNBC and, to a lesser extent, CNBC have. That's what wins. That's what will pull them out of the ratings cellar.

CNN needs to position itself as the Chris Christie of cable news. If I ran the network, I would mention Fox and MSNBC in every promo. But CNN should not position itself as the source for objective journalism, it should image as the network that wants politicians to "Rise Above," not just during crisis, but all of the time.

Hire people with opinions and personality; not partisan hacks. Use the same type of branding and marketing Chris Christie will use heading into 2016. That will resonate with the American people.

However Bewkes and Zucker go about it at Time Warner, I'm confident they'll make the right choices. Both guys understand the business as well as anybody and CNN has been down for far too long.

TWX is already a screaming buy; a resurgent CNN would only make the signal stronger.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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