Does Jeff Zucker Have an Ace Up His Sleeve as He Struggles to Resuscitate CNN?

May 7, 2013  •  Post A Comment

Jeff Zucker doesn’t have a lot to show yet in his campaign to bring CNN back to life in the cable news ratings race, but that may be about to change. TheWrap.com reports that Zucker, whose “four-month tenure running CNN has been marred by failed programming experiments and embarrassing reporting gaffes,” has a key weapon in his arsenal.

That weapon, according to the report, is a morning show, "New Day," which aims to repeat Zucker’s success in making NBC’s "Today" show “the most-watched, most profitable morning news show on television,” the story says.

"New Day," to be co-hosted by Chris Cuomo, "Situation Room’s" Kate Bolduan and former KTLA-TV news anchor Michaela Pereira, is set to premiere Monday, June 10. The piece points out that the lineup is reminiscent of “Today’s” Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Ann Curry.

New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter, who examines the morning news wars in his book “Top of the Morning,” told TheWrap: "I think it’s going to take a long time to turn around CNN’s morning show. I hope that his boss and his lieutenants have the patience that’s necessary. Zucker knows that because he was patient with the ‘Today’ show in the ’90s. So, if anybody can be patient enough to get a following to CNN’s morning show, it’s Jeff Zucker."

TheWrap notes: “Zucker’s first few months at CNN have been a mix of gaffes and successes. Ratings took off during the search for the Boston bombing suspects, but the network was the first of several outlets to wrongly report an arrest, days early. The network’s reporting on a guilty verdict of teenaged defendants in a Steubenville rape case also drew criticism.”

Zucker was quick to bring in his own people in key roles, the piece reports, including “bringing in Allison Gollust, his former PR right hand from NBC, and pushing CNN’s executive vice president Mark Whitaker (who was credited with the channel’s overall approach) out the door.”

The report adds: “Zucker has demonstrated a preference for talent with personality, poaching ABC’s Jake Tapper and adding ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to their ranks, among others. In doing so, he has bid goodbye to network news veterans and commentators including Soledad O’Brien, Roland Martin, James Carville and Maria Cardona.”

The piece quotes a high-ranking exec at rival cable news net MSNBC, speaking anonymously, saying of Zucker: "I think he basically went in there to establish it was his network, got involved with everything and made people react quicker. Step one is to wake everybody up and make sure they react."

“CNN has always cornered the market for breaking news,” the report notes, “but it has had a hard time keeping viewers around for its scheduled programming. Zucker is trying to change that by bringing in recognizable and engaging personalities and broadening the news channel’s appeal.”

Adds the MSNBC exec: "He’s got a tricky thing, he’s got to thread a needle. He has the best brand in news, but has to figure out how to differentiate itself from the competition."

We urge you to click on the link in the first paragraph to read TheWrap’s in-depth report.

2 Comments

  1. CNN will continue to fail until whoever is running it re-discovers what the letters CNN stand for, and goes back to being a Cable News Network.

  2. More important, does he have that golden parachute in place?

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