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Job One For New CNN Head: 'Be Relevant More Than 25 Nights a Year'

[ 0 ] December 3, 2012 |

Newly appointed president of CNN Worldwide has his work cut out for him at CNN, where the U.S. operation has been bleeding audience. In his first email to employees, he hints at a new direction…

Incoming CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker, former head of NBC Universal, has been named to oversee CNN’s nearly two dozen branded companies, which include CNN U.S., CNN International, HLN (Headline News), and to name four.

At the top of Zucker’s to-do list is turning around CNN U.S. which has crumbled as politically polarized challengers Fox News and MSNBC have siphoned viewers away.

The straight-down-the-middle CNN still has strong credibility and numbers during crises, but sags during slow news cycles. This phenomenon is part and parcel of the news game, and affects a significant number of BBG broadcasters.

To the point, Zucker told The New York Times, “CNN has to find the right programming that exists in between the 25 nights a year when it is most relevant. Beyond the fact that we are committed to news and journalism, everything else is open for discussion.”

In his first email to employees, the theme was again evident, stating, “News is about more than politics and war, we need to broaden that definition of what news is, while maintaining the standards of CNN’s journalistic excellence.”

Some of that change in mentality has already been in the works, as CNN has inked deals with foodie Anthony Bourdain and pop-documentarian Morgan Spurlock for weekend programming.

Zucker’s career took off after the ratings success that followed his appointment as executive producer of the Today show in 1992. He was 26 years old at the time.

Zucker starts at CNN in January.

More in The New York Times’ Media Decoder blog.

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