CNN President Jeff Zucker Faces What Might Be His Last Lap

Wall Street Journal:

CNN President Jeff Zucker survived plenty of corporate intrigue since telecom giant AT&T swallowed up the cable network’s parent company two years ago.

Now that is changing, leaving Mr. Zucker frustrated and his future at the cable news network in doubt.

Mr. Zucker, who has overseen CNN for seven years, felt blindsided by a recent restructuring carried out by parent WarnerMedia, and has had friction with its chief executive, Jason Kilar, according to people familiar with the situation.

The 55-year-old’s contract expires next year and he hasn’t committed to extending his deal in meetings with WarnerMedia brass and communications with CNN employees, the people say.

Asked about his future in a town hall video chat on Wednesday, Mr. Zucker said he loves his job, but added, “The industry is changing, our company is changing, so I have a lot to think about,” according to a recording of his remarks. He added, “I’ll do that at the right time.”

Mr. Zucker said he won’t make a decision on whether to stay at CNN until after the election.

If this election is Mr. Zucker’s last ride, he would leave CNN after transforming its role in the cable news landscape and becoming one of the most polarizing figures in media in the process. On his watch, the network, once accused of giving Donald Trump too much airtime during his first presidential run, has become a critic of the administration.

CNN, like its rivals in cable news, has enjoyed a major ratings lift during the controversies of the Trump years, especially in election season. The network’s ratings have increased about threefold compared with where they were at the start of 2015, reflecting similar gains at Fox News and MSNBC. CNN has been second in the ratings for most of the year among viewers 25 to 54, the key news demographic for advertisers, but trails rival MSNBC in total viewers and is well behind ratings leader Fox News.

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