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!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • 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.