CNN to adapt popular British comedy quiz show for Saturday nights

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DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JULY 30: A worker preps the stage during a media briefing ahead of tonight's Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre July 30, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. 20 Democratic presidential candidates were split into two groups of 10 to take part in the debate sponsored by CNN held over two nights at Detroit's Fox Theatre. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CNN will pursue topical comedy for Saturday nights. (Getty Images)

CNN is producing a U.S. edition of "Have I Got News for You," a long-running British comedic panel show that riffs on current affairs.

The network announced Wednesday at parent company Warner Bros. Discovery's advertiser presentation in New York that the series will go into production this fall and air Saturdays in prime time.

"Have I Got News for You" premiered in 1990 on the BBC, where it continues to air. The program uses a quiz show-style format as a forum for comics, pundits and media personalities to satirize the issues of the day.

Hat Trick Productions, which makes the British version, will produce the CNN adaptation. No host or panelists have been announced for the remake.

The series is part of the network's attempt to turn Saturday into a night of topical comedy.

Since March, CNN has been giving a Saturday run to "Real Time With Bill Maher" the night after it premieres on HBO. It has become the network's most-watched hour on the day, averaging close to 700,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.

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“We have been looking for innovative ways to explore new formats and expand the boundaries of CNN programming,” Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent, CNN Originals, and creative development for CNN Worldwide, said in a statement. “The series is the standard bearer of the genre and ripe for its American reincarnation as we revitalize Saturday nights on CNN.”

Fox News is already employing a similar strategy. The network launched "Fox News Saturday Night" last year, using a rotation of comic commentators as hosts to lead a conversation with guests. Comedian Jimmy Falia became the permanent host for the program, which has drawn nearly 1 million viewers in the 10 p.m. Eastern hour.

The conservative-leaning network's nightly comedy talk show "Gutfeld!" is the among the most watched programs on cable news.

CNN has attempted a number of quiz show and comedy formats over the years, most of which never got past the pilot stage.

The network has been grappling with declining ratings in recent years, as cord-cutting and disaffected viewers have put the squeeze on its viewing levels.

Mark Thompson, a former top executive at the BBC and the New York Times, took over the reins of the network last fall. Thompson has been slow to shake up prime time on the flashship channel. He has focused on how to prepare the network for a growing number of digital media users who do not subscribe to a pay TV service.

"Have I Got News for You" is a broadcast institution in Britain, surviving the loss of its longtime host Angus Deayton decades ago. A fan favorite, Deayton departed the show in 2002 after he was dogged by tabloid reports that he used cocaine and had sex with prostitutes.

NBC filmed a pilot for a U.S. adaptation in 2009 that was not picked up for a series.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.