Jeff Zucker Named To Lead CNN

Ex-Head of NBCUniversal Aims to Turn Around Fortunes

By Reuters

Published November 29, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Time Warner Inc on Thursday named Jeff Zucker, a former top executive at NBC, as president of its cable news network, CNN Worldwide, beginning in January.

Jeff Zucker
getty images
Jeff Zucker

Zucker, who headed NBCUniversal and is currently producer of Katie Couric’s syndicated television talk show, will succeed Jim Walton, and report to Phil Kent, chairman and chief executive of CNN parent Turner Broadcasting System. Walton said in July he was leaving the network.

“Outside of my family and the Miami Dolphins, there is nothing I am as passionate about as journalism,” said Zucker said in a statement. “I spent the most rewarding years of my career as a journalist.”

Zucker, who will be based at CNN in New York, gained a reputation as a news-producing whiz working with Couric on NBC’s “Today” show. CNN’s headquarters are in Atlanta, where Turner is based.

Under Zucker’s leadership, “Today” became the most-watched morning news show and the most profitable program on television.

He remained involved in programming decisions as well as the strategic direction of NBC News and the MSNBC and CNBC cable channels, even after he was named CEO of NBCUniversal, a source close to him told Reuters earlier this week, when news first broke of his imminent CNN appointment. NBCUniversal is controlled by Comcast Corp.

Zucker was heavily involved in the decision to move some of MSNBC’s programming to the political left to counter Fox News Channel’s perceived rightward slant, the source told Reuters, though that didn’t imply he would move CNN programs in a more partisan direction. Fox is owned by News Corp.

Zucker himself follows politics with the same fervor in which he plays tennis. He often spends his leisure hours at the tennis court, and was rumored to be eyeing political office after leaving NBC.

Since its beginnings as the first 24-hour cable news network, CNN has tried to hold the middle ground in its coverage, a position that some blame for the erosion in its ratings.

As CNN’s viewership declined, ratings increased for Fox News and MSNBC, which blend news with opinion and political commentary.

CNN has lagged Fox and MSNBC in prime-time viewers for more than a year. On a regular news night, CNN draws fewer than 1 million U.S. prime-time viewers, compared with about 2.7 million for Fox and about 1.5 million viewers for MSNBC, according to ratings data.

CNN still can be the go-to network for major breaking news stories. The network scored a ratings win the night of the U.S. presidential election in November, saying it attracted 8.8 million total viewers, beating Fox News Channel by about 1 million.

Zucker now has the task of improving the performance of a network whose prime-time ratings hit a 21-year low during the second quarter of this year.

“Jeff’s experience as a news executive is unmatched for its breadth and success,” Kent said in a statement. “He will bring energy and new thinking to CNN.”

CNN has at least one advantage over its cable news competitors: It attracts a much bigger digital audience. In October, CNN boasted 68 million unique online visitors. That topped 56 million for NBC News Digital and 35 million for the Fox News Digital Network, according to CNN.

As president, Zucker, who once said networks can’t trade analog dollars for digital dimes, can try to move CNN’s digital audience upstream to the network and leverage its web reach for both ratings and financial gain.

Though CNN remains profitable, Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s CEO, said in August he was unsatisfied with the network’s low ratings and would seek to turn it around with more compelling programming that would remain non-partisan.

CNN has struggled to find a programming identity in recent years. It paired former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer with pundit Kathleen Parker for a talk show that failed in the ratings.

It released talk show host Larry King, perhaps its best-known personality, after more than two decades and replaced him with British journalist Piers Morgan.

More recently, the network created a prime-time show for its most youth-oriented host, Anderson Cooper, and enlisted popular chef Anthony Bourdain for a travel and food-related show.

While Zucker’s news chops are respected, his tenure at NBC is often defined by the network’s failures in prime time, as his rise to CEO coincided with NBC’s fall from its top spot on the ratings perch.

NBC has resided in the prime-time ratings basement among the big four TV networks for the better part of a decade. This year, however, the network has experienced a bit of a resurgence in prime time and ranks first once again among viewers 18 to 49 years old.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.