Zucker Named President of CNN Worldwide
Updated: Former NBCU exec takes over ratings-challenged network from Jim Walton
By Jon Lafayette and Andrea Morabito -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/29/2012 10:24:22 AM
Former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker is joining CNN Worldwide as president, Turner Broadcasting said Thursday, confirming reports earlier this week.
Zucker will be in charge of 23 news and information businesses around the world, but his key challenge will be reinvigorating CNN's domestic ratings, particularly in primetime where the one-time leader has fallen to 20-year lows, and behind its newer partisan rivals Fox News Channel and MSNBC.
He takes over CNN from Jim Walton, who announced this summer that he would step down at the end of the year after 10 years at the helm, saying at the time that, "CNN needs new thinking."
Zucker, who most recently has served as executive producer of Katie Couric's syndicated talk show, will report to Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent and will be based in New York, rather than CNN's Atlanta base. Kent said the location would not be a problem as CNN's U.S. network and its head, Ken Jautz, are already based in New York.
With a background as a researcher for NBC Sports' Olympic coverage and executive producer of NBC News programming including the Today show and Nightly News, Zucker knows his way around a newsroom. Later he became head of all of NBCU's operations where he oversaw the flagship NBC network at a time when its primetime ratings sank and orchestrated the failed Jay Leno in primetime experiment; he was dismissed when Comcast bought control of the media company from General Electric.
On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Kent said Zucker's performance as an entertainment executive was irrelevant to his decision to hire him to lead CNN and Zucker acknowledged that he has learned from his past mistakes.
Zucker's most visible task as president of CNN will be to revive the U.S. network's slumping primetime ratings, though both he and Kent cautioned that ratings are not the only thing that defines the success and that its core business is strong.
"Ratings are not the only thing that we are concerned about here. What is the most important thing in our business is to be essential every day to some core pocket of fans," Kent said, referring to the high subscriber fees CNN still commands from cable operators for its must-carry status.
Though Zucker declined to comment on specific programming plans or his opinion on specific current CNN shows, he did say the network needs to broaden its definition of what news is, like it will do with upcoming weekend shows from Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock.
"We're not going to stray from the journalism that's the hallmark of CNN, but at the same time we live in a world where nonfiction programming comes in many forms," Zucker said, who added that "news is not just about politics and war" and that shows like Bourdain's "begins to understand that the definition of news is broader than perhaps what has historically been thought about here."
And as CNN expands its definition of news, so must it expand its idea of competitors to anyone who produces nonfiction programming, Zucker said. "If we only look at competitive set being Fox News and MSNBC, I think we make a mistake."
Though of course, Zucker acknowledged, the goal is to get higher daily ratings than both of those two cable news networks.
Lynn Rowe - 11/30/2012 2:30:55 PM EST
RIP CNN - 11/30/2012 4:26:56 AM EST
RIP CNN - 11/30/2012 4:19:25 AM EST
RIP CNN - 11/30/2012 4:19:25 AM EST
RIP CNN - 11/30/2012 4:19:24 AM EST
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