Dissecting Black Friday on CNN: What's next for NBC and CNN after executive firings?
Meant to have this up yesterday, but problems with our blogging platform made posting in the afternoon a bit troublesome.
Still, I wanted to post a copy of my CNN appearance Sunday on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources, just to put a capper on the talk about the ouster of NBC Universal chair Jeff Zucker and CNN U.S. president Jon Klein last Friday.
As you might expect, we spent more time talking about Zucker, in part because Kurtz had invited former CBS Evening News executive producer Rome Hartman. Hartman, who was fired to atone for the faltering start of Katie Couric's retooled evening newscast, was understandably sympathetic to Zucker, pointing out his many achievements, particularly as executive producer of the Today show in his 20s. (Comcast announced, around the time of our broadcast I think, that its COO Steve Burke would take Zucker's position once the takeover was complete)
All true, all worth saying. But Zucker took the long walk Friday because he never really made that news success work for the most visible part of NBC's business, the network's prime time programming. There, he became known for a series of awful decisions, starting with failing to find hit to keep the Must-See-Tv franchise going and ending with a late night debacle that hobbled both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien's careers.
As Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting and Cable noted, it's not unusual for a new owner to bring in a new management team. But if other top manager at NBC stay in their jobs -- say Steve Capus at NBC News and Dick Ebersol at NBC Sports -- it may be worth wondering how much of Zucker's departure was fated by his own turbulent recent history.
Far as CNN goes, it reminds me very much of MSNBC circa 2002 or 2003, when that channels ratings were dismal and it was flailing desperately for an identity to combat the surge of jingoism that helped rival Fox News Channel in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. MSNBC needed Keith Olbermann, a Fox expatriate who took two years to develop a liberal voice that could attract viewers.
So my question, given the ascension of CNN Headline News guy Ken Jautz to Klein's job Friday, is who with be CNN's Olbermann? And how will he -- or she -- redefine the network?