CNN's Zucker Disses Fox as He Pivots Network Toward Entertainment

CNN's Zucker Disses Fox as He Pivots Network Toward Entertainment

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker was unable to say the words “Fox News” when identifying the three brands that dominate cable news and information. He said in a recent interview, “I think ESPN owns sports, I think the Weather Channel owns weather and I want CNN to own news and information.”  What Zucker wants and what is are two different things. Fox News is the number one cable news network and was second only to ESPN in primetime in November. 

For the 143rd consecutive month, Fox led the way for cable news, easily exceeding its competitors MSNBC and CNN combined. Although all cable news channels were down compared to last year’s November due to the presidential election, CNN was down the most. In the coveted 25-54 age group, CNN was down -62% in prime time viewing and -59% in total day viewing.

Zucker–“rhymes with hooker,” the CNN President proudly states-will combat dismal ratings by transitioning away from news and more to entertainment themed shows. “I’m not trying to alienate that audience. But the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we’re doing is trading [audience] share…We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”

CNN, “the worldwide leader in news,” will be striving for “an attitude and a take,” according to Zucker. He points out recent nontraditional news shows such as the documentary Blackfish, which detailed the history of killer whales in captivity is news reporting “that is just not being so obvious.”  Also, a huge favorite for Zucker is the #1 show on CNN, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.”  Here, Bourdain travels to exotic locations that are “unknown” for most of us, such as Myanmar, the Congo, and Detroit, and eats native cuisine while telling stories of the venue’s past, present, and future. 

Zucker acknowledges that CNN’s new direction is not yet a financial success, but he claims that progress is being made. “Are the revenues there, the way we want them today to be? No. But are they growing? Yes.”   


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