Saturday, April 21, 2018
TV and Media

'Magnet for talent' Jeff Zucker to head CNN Worldwide

Soledad O'Brien better watch her back now.

That was the joke that flew through my head briefly about halfway through the sometimes awkward press conference held Thursday to announce that former NBC Universal head Jeff Zucker would be taking over as president of CNN Worldwide in early 2013. The Homestead native comes with baggage.

Though credited with sparking ratings victories at the Today show when he was its executive producer in the 1990s, he is also blamed for failing to duplicate hits such as Friends while president of NBC Entertainment and pushing for the costly mistake of replacing Jay Leno with Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show while running NBC Universal in 2009.

"There's no doubt I made some mistakes in the entertainment world," said Zucker, 47. "And I own those. I feel really excited about being able to return to daily news."

In other words, this is Zucker's chance to prove that, though he may not have handled the network TV game particularly well, he can still rebuild his legacy as a brilliant television news executive by turning around CNN.

Much of the conference call announcing Zucker's new job went this way, as executives tried to look smart and savvy without tipping their hand to competitors or spooking employees. ("I think you can appreciate that I've been here about an hour," Zucker told one journalist asking for specifics.)

Here are a few examples of what Zucker and his boss, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. chairman/CEO Phil Kent, said, followed by what they may have meant.

Zucker: "The key is that CNN remain true to its standards of great journalism, but at the same time be vibrant and exciting. Just because you're not partisan, doesn't mean you can't be exciting."

The meaning: Outside big news events, CNN scores ratings in prime time below right-friendly Fox News and liberal-leaning MSNBC. Some experts say that's because CNN's partisan rivals attract fans when there is no huge election or superstorm looming. Zucker ruled out a partisanship, but used the word "vibrant" at least three different times, while Kent called his new hire a "magnet for talent." In other words, they need a new star who can shake up CNN prime time and draw a passionate fan base.

Zucker: "If we allow our competition to be defined only by the partisan cable networks, I think that's a mistake."

The meaning: CNN Worldwide earns something like $600 million in profits, according to the New York Times; Zucker will oversee 23 different businesses including CNN International and HLN. Some executives there want to be judged beyond domestic U.S. TV ratings.

Kent: "What should CNN be doing in the morning hours different than its cable competitors? ... That was a thought exercise we never did enough at CNN."

The meaning: CNN sometimes scores morning ratings lower than sister network HLN. Zucker, who helped NBC's Today start its 16-year winning streak in ratings, is now in the building.

Hope O'Brien, who anchors the morning show Starting Point, is ready for some suggestions on how to be more vibrant.

Comments

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosNHRA: SpringNationals2 p.m.FS1IndyCar: Grand Prix of Alabama3 p.m.NBCSNBaseballTwins at Rays1 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Brewers2 p.m.FSFIndians at Orioles2 p.m.MLBCubs at Rockies (in progress)4 p.m.MLBNationals at Dodgers8 p.m.ESPNColle...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Watch this weekend: ‘Westworld,’ ”The 100,’ ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Back online: WestworldIt's crazy to think that the first season of Westworld premiered more than a year ago. But the hype surrounding this modern sci-fi series hasn't let up since. In the first season we explored the high-tech theme park of Westworld...
Published: 04/20/18
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Published: 04/19/18
Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

Eva Longoria’s American ‘Gran Hotel’ adaptation in Miami: What we know so far

I forever sing the praises of Gran Hotel, the gasp-inducing Spanish drama that is hands-down the most addicting show I have ever binged. It's been remade in Italy, Mexico (as El hotel de los secretos) and Egypt (as Grand Hotel but on Netflix as Secre...
Published: 04/19/18
Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

Bring yourself back online: ‘Westworld’ returns with a vengeance and even more head-spinning narratives

The violent delights and violent ends have returned.Westworld premieres a second season Sunday on HBO, and this time the artificial intelligence "hosts" are in charge of the high-tech theme park.If you thought the first season was brutal, you're in f...
Published: 04/18/18
‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

‘Night Court’ star Harry Anderson, 65, found dead in home

Harry Anderson, the actor best known for playing an off-the-wall judge working the night shift of a Manhattan court room in the television comedy series Night Court, was found dead in his North Carolina home Monday. Mr. Anderson was 65. A statement f...
Published: 04/16/18
Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

Video: Meteorologist goes on epic on-air rant during another cold forecast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The winter that won’t end has taken its toll on a TV meteorologist in western Michigan.Garry Frank of WXMI-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, went on a rant to colleagues because they weren’t excited about his forecast.Video of the r...
Published: 04/16/18
Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster stores are still open, and soon to receive a special gift from John Oliver

Blockbuster is still open in Alaska, and about to receive some interesting movie memorabilia from "Last Week Tonight" and John Oliver.
Published: 04/16/18

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Food City 500 (resumption, 296 laps left)1 p.m.FoxBaseballRangers at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMCardinals at Cubs7 p.m.ESPNAstros at Mariners10 p.m.MLBCollege softballMississippi State at Mississippi7 p.m.SECN.C. State at ...
Published: 04/15/18