Tuesday, June 19, 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

Sports on TV/radio for Tuesday, June 19

TODAYBaseballOrioles at Nationals7 p.m.MLBRays at Astros8 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Giants10 p.m.FSFDiamondbacks at Angels10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesFlorida vs. Texas2 p.m.ESPNTexas Tech vs. Arkansas7 p.m.ESPNGolfPGA Professionals c...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 18

TODAYBaseballYankees at Nationals7 p.m.MLBRays at Astros8 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Giants10 p.m.FSFDiamondbacks at Angels10 p.m.ESPNCollege baseball, World SeriesOregon State vs. Washington2 p.m.ESPNNorth Carolina vs. Mississippi State7 p.m.ESPN...
Published: 06/17/18

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, June 17

TODAYAutosXfinity: Iowa 250 qualifying2:30 p.m.FS2Xfinity: Iowa 2505 p.m.FS1BaseballMarlins at Orioles1 p.m.FSFRays at Yankees2 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMAstros at Royals2 p.m.MLBRed Sox at Mariners (in progress)5 p.m.MLBCubs at Cardinals8 p.m.ESPNCollege b...
Published: 06/16/18

Sports on TV/radio for Saturday, June 16

TODAYArena FootballPhiladelphia at Albany6 p.m.CBSSNAutosTrucks: Iowa 250 qualifying4:30 p.m.FS2Trucks: Iowa 2507 p.m.FS1BaseballRays at Yankees1 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Orioles4 p.m.FSFTwins at Indians4 p.m.MLBRed Sox at Mariners8 p.m.FoxCFLHa...
Published: 06/15/18
Sports on TV/radio for Friday, June 15

Sports on TV/radio for Friday, June 15

TODAYArena FootballWashington at Baltimore7 p.m.CBSSNAutosNHRA: Thunder Valley Nationals qualifying6 p.m.FS1BaseballRays at Yankees7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMMarlins at Orioles7 p.m.FSFCFLToronto at Saskatchewan9 p.m.ESPN2GolfU.S. Open10 a.m.FS1LPGA: Meije...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
WATCH: New live-action Dumbo trailer

WATCH: New live-action Dumbo trailer

Disney dropped the a new trailer for Tim Burton’s dark live-action Dumbo reboot Tuesday. The short trailer features a gloomy take on the song “Baby Mine” and already has fans ready to reach for the tissues. one day Disney will re...
Published: 06/14/18
WUSF names new ‘Morning Edition’ host

WUSF names new ‘Morning Edition’ host

The new host for NPR’s Morning Edition on WUSF-FM 89.7: Jessica Meszaros.The reporter and anchor on Thursday officially replaced longtime host Carson Cooper as the local voice of one of public radio’s signature shows."She has real confidence in her v...
Published: 06/14/18
Sports on TV/radio for Tuesday, June 12

Sports on TV/radio for Tuesday, June 12

TODAYBaseballBlue Jays at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMGiants at Marlins7 p.m.FSFMets at Braves7:30 p.m.ESPNGolfUSGA Celebration of Champions4 p.m.FS1HockeyAHL: Texas at Toronto (if needed)7 p.m.NHLSoccerExhibition: Women’s U.S. national team vs. China7 ...
Published: 06/12/18
Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 11

Sports on TV/radio for Monday, June 11

TODAYBaseballBlue Jays at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMGiants at Marlins7 p.m.FSFCubs at Brewers8 p.m.MLBCollege baseball, super regionsTennessee Tech at Texas1 p.m.ESPN2Duke at Texas Tech4 p.m.ESPN2South Carolina at Arkansas7 p.m.ESPN2Auburn at Florida8...
Published: 06/11/18
Home is where the horror is ...

Home is where the horror is ...

In Hereditary, bugs crawl from decapitated heads, ghosts lurk in the shadows and an artist tries to communicate with the dead. But the most jarring moment of this terrifying new movie might be when Annie, a mother played by Toni Collette, tells her s...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/12/18