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CNN president Jeff Zucker announced during the network’s morning call on Thursday that he will lead CNN through 2021 but plans to depart at year-end.
“I cannot imagine not being here right now,” Zucker said. “I’m going to stay and finish my current contract, which, as I said, will keep me here until the end of this year. At that point, I do expect to move on.”
Zucker acknowledged that he considered moving on before his contract expired, saying, “The truth is, back in November and December, I had basically decided that it was time to move on.” There were reported tensions between Zucker and WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, who stripped Zucker of his oversight of the human resources and public relations teams.
CNN’s future, including Zucker’s reign and whether AT&T will sell the cable news channel, has been the subject of speculation for months.
Whether you’ve enjoyed CNN’s controversial pivot under Zucker to become an MSNBC alternative, today’s news provides CNN with stability as it anchors in the post-Trump era. With Trump gone, the entire cable news industry has had to reset and re-imagine. Trump’s Twitter account provided content for four years. Now it’s gone, and it’s not coming back.
CNN must first decide if the plan is to continue providing a strong Left-wing spin on the top stories in Washington. Presumably, that direction will at least remain in primetime with Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, and Don Lemon. CNN has more flexibility with its daytime hosts. Its morning show, New Day, needs a reboot.
Zucker’s announcement also buys WarnerMedia time to assess future options before bringing in a new leader. Expect CNN’s next president to come with a focus on digital and streaming opportunities to better mesh with Kilar’s vision.
In the short term, Zucker will be around to lead CNN in the early days of Joe Biden’s presidency, Trump’s post-White House plans, and hopefully the end of the COVID-19 outbreak.