CNN has selected Kaitlan Collins to host a new weeknight show at 9 p.m., elevating her to one of the most coveted time slots in cable news a week after she moderated a contentious town hall with former President Donald J. Trump.
The new role for Ms. Collins was announced by CNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, on Wednesday, just ahead of a presentation to advertisers in Midtown Manhattan hosted by Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company.
Her show, which does not yet have a title, is set to begin in June. “She is a smart and gifted journalist who we’ve all seen hold lawmakers and newsmakers accountable,” Mr. Licht wrote in a newsroom memo. “Kaitlan will expose uncovered angles and challenge conventional wisdom to make sure viewers are seeing a story from every side.”
The promotion of Ms. Collins, 31, a co-host of the network’s morning show, amounts to a major bet by CNN leadership on a rising star who has impressed colleagues with her interviewing and reporting chops, but remains relatively untested as a solo anchor.
It is also Mr. Licht’s latest attempt to revive his network’s sagging ratings.
The 9 p.m. hour at CNN — once its highest-rated time slot — has effectively been vacant since Chris Cuomo was fired in December 2021. Mr. Licht’s recent attempt to fill the hour with a variety of interviews and news specials fizzled with viewers. On weeknights, CNN lags behind Fox News and MSNBC, and on Friday, two days after the Trump town hall, it even lost to Newsmax, a fledgling conservative network that is available in fewer homes.
Ms. Collins, who joined CNN in 2017 as a reporter covering the Trump White House, brings a youthful jolt to a programming block that for years has been hosted by middle-aged male anchors.
An Alabama native who cut her teeth at the conservative news site The Daily Caller, Ms. Collins is prized by Mr. Licht for her perceived ability to connect with viewers outside coastal liberal enclaves. She became the network’s chief White House correspondent in 2021 at age 28, the youngest person to hold the role, and covered President Biden before moving to New York last year as a co-host of “CNN This Morning.”
She is also well respected in the political media and had been slated to serve as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association beginning in 2024. (She had to forgo the role after relocating from Washington.)
In April, Ms. Collins did a weeklong stint as host of CNN’s 9 p.m. hour. She drew favorable ratings, with executives taking notice that she was able to retain much of Anderson Cooper’s lead-in audience from 8 p.m.
Last week, she was in the national spotlight as the moderator of the New Hampshire town hall with Mr. Trump. Ms. Collins remained composed in the face of Mr. Trump’s barrage of falsehoods, repeatedly interrupting to correct baseless claims. Mr. Trump mostly talked over her and was applauded by some audience members when he derided Ms. Collins as a “nasty person.”
“The election was not rigged, Mr. President,” Ms. Collins said in one representative exchange. “You cannot keep saying that all night long.” (Mr. Trump kept saying it.)
The exact format of Ms. Collins’s 9 p.m. show is yet to be determined, but one idea discussed by CNN executives is a focus on one or two major news topics of the day, according to a person who requested anonymity to describe internal discussions.
Mr. Licht, in announcing Ms. Collins’s role, told advertisers on Wednesday that his plan for CNN was to emphasize “reporting over punditry to separate the news from the noise.” A video promoting the network included a moment between Ms. Collins and Mr. Trump from last week’s town hall, a sign Mr. Licht is not backing away from the event amid criticism.
Ms. Collins is ascending after navigating a tense situation at “CNN This Morning.” Her co-host Don Lemon rattled crew members last year when he confronted Ms. Collins backstage and accused her of interrupting him too often. The tensions led in part to Ms. Collins’s leaving her talent agent, who also worked with Mr. Lemon, and finding new representation. Mr. Lemon was later ousted by CNN after heavy criticism of sexist comments he made on the air.
Poppy Harlow, the remaining co-host of “CNN This Morning,” will stay on the show, Mr. Licht said on Wednesday. Ms. Harlow will lead the show and be joined by a series of guest hosts until a permanent lineup is named, he said.
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