After nearly a year as president of CNN, Jeff Zucker has decided to make some changes that go well beyond mere anchor shuffling. In an interview with Capital New York, Zucker explained that the channel, whose initialism stands for Cable News Network, needs more of “an attitude and a take,” which means “more shows and less newscasts.” (As Vulture’s Josef Adalian pointed out in November, this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the network, which has been steadily expanding the newly created CNN Films unit.) Zucker told Capital that he hopes to break out of CNN’s ratings war with Fox News and MSNBC by attracting people “who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E” to his existing audience, which currently consists of people who care about, you know, the news.
While Zucker “initially faced internal resistance” to this strategy, he said it became hard to argue with the successes of non-news CNN offerings, such as edgy chef Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, which is currently the network’s top-rated show, and the anti–Sea World documentary Blackfish, a likely Oscar contender. Zucker intends to bring more of those types of projects to CNN’s prime-time slots, though he didn’t give many specifics. He told Capital, “Honestly, there is not a piece of paper that has the lineup on it right now.” He has also been devoting more resources to CNN’s online newsroom, with a focus on “mobile and video” content. “Television is still our bread and butter today, but digital will continue to be more important every day going forward,” he said.
It’s too early to predict how Zucker’s shift will work out for CNN, but it doesn’t sound like the worst idea for a news network that has gained a reputation for sloppy, often oversimplified reporting (and, as of yesterday, allowing reporters to interview their own brothers).