Former NBCUniversal Chief Jeff Zucker has been hired to head up CNN. It’s a disastrous move for the network unless Zucker can somehow recapture his “Today Show” magic from over a decade ago. As I wrote earlier this week:
While Zucker did a bang-up job as an executive producer on NBC’s “Today,” his overall programming strategy resulted in unmitigated disaster once he got the top slot. He took over a lineup from Warren Littlefield that included Seinfeld, ER, Will & Grace, Frasier and Friends. He ended up with a lineup that included Bionic Woman, Journeyman, Life, Lipstick Jungle, and The Singing Bee.
Zucker’s biggest hire was neophyte Ben Silverman (who transported The Office from Britain) as head of programming. Silverman proceeded to greenlight twelve new shows in April 2008. All lasted precisely one season. Silverman dubbed himself a “rock star television executive” nonetheless.
Zucker is also an unrepentant liberal; he’d be perhaps the least objective news overseer in the nation. He was offered a slot in the prospective Gore administration in 2000, an offer he seriously considered. He then proceeded to head up NBC’s coverage of the Gore-Bush election. Jack Welch, head of NBCUniversal’s then-parent company, GE, suggested that Zucker had turned the Today show into Pravda. As head of NBCUniversal, he mandated that almost every prime-time show include green themes. He was personally a donor to the Obama 2008 campaign.
For a network on the ropes, desperately in need of at least the veneer of objectivity, Zucker is a disastrous pick.