There is a lot of intrigue surrounding the future of CNN and rumors are swirling. The New York Post reports that industry insiders speculate that Warners-Discovery may be trying to sell its problematic properties. Jeffrey Zucker is the name that stands out when it comes to guessing potential suitors.
Now, all of this barely rises above the common practice seen in sports involving trade rumors, in which we see wishcasting from sports journalists running with fed items from the agents looking to leverage teams on behalf of their clients. Here the Post spoke with a number of industry professionals who were across the board with opinions on the matter, but the amusement lies in the prospect of Zucker reacquiring his former network.
These rumors are at least partially plausible. Recently, I did a review of Chris Licht’s rapid decline from grace as the newly appointed CEO of the network. When other media outlets started covering the drama around his departure, it was reported that a number of CNN personalities and staffers had turned to Zucker behind the scenes over the course of the last year.
It was clear that many people at the failing network still owed their former boss and were resisting any changes Licht wanted. This revealed how Zucker was in some way working against Licht’s desire to restore a badly damaged news outlet. It is hard to look at someone who suggests that Zucker will soon take control of his flagship without a smirk.
This proposal has a wrinkle: the leader who is dispatched would have to pay for this purchase if the network was put up for auction. Zucker is the CEO of Red Bird and partners with International Media Investments. This Abu Dhabi-based entity is thought to be able to attract the billions needed for a country purchase.
CNN would be funded with oil money. It would be a source of endless speculation as to how the network covers global issues, environmental concerns, and potential conflicts of interest.
Those who cover CNN’s future under Zucker tend to ignore a few things and those staffers who long for his return do not mention them either. First, the current rating catastrophe of the network began under Zucker’s leadership. CNN’s ratings had plummeted by the time Zucker was sent to it in February 2022. At the time, the network was averaging 550,000 viewers. This is a drop of over two million viewers from 2021, which amounts to a 90 percent decline. Many still working at the network want to see this performance again.
The track record of Zucker’s leadership is not just about stumbling numbers. Zucker has pushed the network to a deeply anti-Trump position for years. He had a questionable relationship with Andrew Cuomo on the air and allowed his brother Chris to commit many journalistic mistakes on air. Zucker allowed Don Lemon to rant for two hours during prime time. Jim Acosta was encouraged to create a raucous distraction at the White House. Brian Stelter served as a moral spokesperson to justify this behavior.
Jeff Zucker’s tenure paved the way for CNN to be in its current hapless position. It is absurd to think of him as a sort of savior who can bring CNN back to prominence.