Former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker is in advanced negotiations to become head of CNN, according to numerous reports. Zucker would succeed Jim Walton, who said in July that he was stepping down as CNN Worldwide CEO. CNN is a unit of Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting.
Discussions with Zucker have heated up in the last few weeks and Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes and Turner Broadcasting Chairman Phil Kent are hoping to have an agreement locked up either by the end of this week or early next week, according to the LA Times.
Zucker, who left NBCUniversal almost two years ago, has been the candidate most often mentioned for the position practically since the day Walton announced his plans to leave CNN. His resume includes a very successful run as executive producer of NBC’s morning program “Today.” He has also played a major role in the network’s overall news programming efforts including its coverage of the Olympics and elections.
However, Zucker has been away from the news business for more than a decade. He left “Today” to become head of NBC’s prime-time lineup in 2000 and though he did not have nearly the same success programming the evenings as he did the mornings, he still rose to the top of NBCUniversal. He left after Comcast acquired a majority stake in NBCU.
Zucker is currently producing former “Today” anchor Katie Couric’s daytime talk show.
The only other prominent candidate to emerge besides Zucker in recent weeks is Mark Shapiro, a former top executive at the sports network ESPN who until this fall was president of Dick Clark Productions. But Shapiro, who was regarded as an innovative production executive while at ESPN, is seen as a long shot given his lack of hard news experience.
If Zucker takes the job he will have his work cut out for him. CNN has struggled in the ratings compared with Fox News and MSNBC, which mix news and opinion rather than straight news and features.
RBR-TVBR observation: Maybe a mix of right and left would be best for CNN moving forward. Yes, they can still report the news, but having a Hannity and Colmes mix at the anchor desk, providing both right-and left-perspective commentary (humorous at times) would be a way to turn things around. Also, a young and middle age mix of anchors could bring in a wider audience. Let’s face it—Fox News leans right; MSNBC leans left. Perhaps bring both opinions to the table—and the news—might be worth a shot.