UPDATED: The soon-to-be new chief of CNN says that the cable news pioneer can’t “allow our competition to be defined just by the partisan political networks… Our competition is not just Fox News and MSNBC.” But Jeff Zucker declined to criticize any of CNN’s current shows, or describe what he’ll do to revive the network’s primetime ratings, which have been depressed. He vowed to keep journalistic priorities at the top of the agenda at CNN, which he says is “a global business (with) scale that’s unmatched by anyone else.” Ratings are “not what defines the health of this business.” Still, he says that improving programming will “be a top priority” and he has ideas to increase viewer “passion….How we’ll get there is something we’ll look at in the days and months ahead.”
Zucker seemed to suggest that his plan could include lots of soft news. He says that he plans to “broaden the definition of what news is”, adding later that it’s “not just about politics and wars.” He also sees big opportunities to improve HLN. Turner Broadcasting CEO Phil Kent says Zucker’s background running Today should help with the “thought exercise that we never did enough of” to figure out how to program the networks in the morning. Zucker also hit the digital button, saying he hopes to strengthen CNN’s online assets and turn Web visitors into television watchers.
What about Zucker’s rocky tenure as CEO of NBCUniversal, including the failed effort to create a primetime show with Jay Leno? Zucker acknowledged that he “made mistakes in the entertainment world. I own those.” But Kent says Zucker’s missteps were “irrelevant to my search” — he wanted a “great leader of a news organization.”
Zucker says he’ll leave his job as executive producer of Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show Katie by the middle of January.