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OTHER ARTICLES Last modified on September 26, 2016

Making headlines

President, Deborah Cooper, talks to Joe Bates about the launch, success and development of CNN Airport Network.

How did CNN Airport Network come about?

It is a passenger-inspired network that was born out of the desire to be kept updated on the critical world events that were unfolding at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991. Back then in the US, 95% of passengers had no way of accessing up to the minute news. Our owner, Ted Turner, was concerned that perhaps this demand for CNN was connected only to the situation in the Gulf and that this demand might dissipate. However, to the contrary, research demonstrated that travellers had a need to connect to world events beyond the situation in the Middle East and the ratings for such a service were extremely high. Armed with that information, the prototype for the first CNN Airport Network programming wheel was developed.

How do you tailor your content to an airport audience and is it airport specific?

Our content has evolved significantly over the last 25 years. We started with dedicated Airport Network anchors and custom content with a 30-minute wheel. As viewership grew and winter months and delays did as well, our research showed viewers were eager to have up to the minute news and information that would make their dwell time seem more productive. 

Now, we programme our network live 24/7 specifically for airport viewers. This means we vary our programming by day-parts, offering quick-paced news and features in the busy morning travel times; more in-depth news in the afternoons and early evening; and a more relaxed format on the weekends. 

Each hour of the day includes the latest news, sports and business headlines as well as multiple weather forecasts. which are so important to air travellers. Our programming breaks down to approximately 35% news and weather, 25% live sports, 15% lifestyle, 15% travel and 10% local and regional content.

Do people really want to watch the news when they are travelling?

News is still the number one genre of programming travellers want, according to our bi-annual Nielsen survey of passengers. Domestic and world news along with business updates and weather are key components of our programming during rush hours in the morning and late afternoon.  

Research also tells us that viewers want variety, therefore we include lighter fare such as tips for frequent flyers, guides to beautiful destinations around the world, business profiles and highlights of the latest trends at airports around the US. We also include original programming from Turner’s portfolio of brands including shows like TNT’s The Last Ship or truTV’s The Carbonaro Effect, as well as custom segments from TBS, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Cartoon Network and professional live sports.  

What are the most popular items on CNN’s Airport Network?

The most popular items are the live breaking news events. When people are travelling they are out of their normal routines and they tell us (through Nielsen research) that they look for the latest news on our screens when they arrive at their gates. After getting the news, they like alternative content that’s designed specifically for them. Our stories about great destinations and travel tips are also very popular. And, of course, people love the
live sports we carry. 

Are you a frequent traveller yourself and, if so, do you have a favourite airport?

I take about 20 trips a year for business purposes and several for vacation, so yes, I would say I am a frequent flyer. I don’t think it’s possible to compare an airport like Atlanta or JFK to an airport like Palm Beach or TF Green. They are completely different facilities and it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Personally, I enjoy virtually every airport that I travel through. They all have their unique features and amenities and I never tire of discovering new things to see and do in all of them. 

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