The morning newscast, which launches June 17, is a top priority for the CNN chief. And while it won’t break the mold, Jeff Zucker says in a briefing today that the effort will stand out over time by blending hard news with a relatively young anchor team featuring Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan, and news anchor Michaela Pereira. When he ran NBC’s Today Show “we did play with a lot of gimmicks. Cooking segments and outdoor concerts. Those are not going to be part of this kind of program…People are coming to CNN for the news.” Zucker says New Day won’t try to mimic MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “Its success has been with an elite audience but not with a broad audience. We’re not after a niche audience.” He praised the news focus of CBS This Morning but says New Day will have “a slightly different tone that you’ll get from a new generation.” He hopes to get a jump on his rivals by starting New Day at 6 AM. “The one time of day when people don’t necessarily know what’s happening is when they wake up,” he says.
After luring Cuomo from ABC, Zucker conducted five screen tests with potential colleagues who’d relate well on-air. “You can’t fake chemistry….When we put Kate next to Chris, you just knew.” Zucker spoke to CNN’s Erin Burnett but “in the end we both decided that it was probably more important for her and for the network that she stay where she is” hosting the 7 PM Erin Burnett OutFront. Zucker says he didn’t talk to former Today anchor Ann Curry about the CNN gig. As for Pereira, Zucker says that when he met the former KTLA morning anchor “I said ‘Holy shit, where have you been’?”
New Day has three launch advertisers, although Zucker declined to say who they are. Zucker adds that he’ll give New Day‘s anchors time to adjust to each other and figure out what works. He’ll consider the show a success if it generates higher ratings that previous CNN morning shows, but “we’re in for the long haul.”