Time Warner Inc said on Thursday Jeff Zucker would be president of its cable news network, CNN Worldwide, beginning in January.
Zucker, former head of NBCUniversal and current producer of Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” will succeed Jim Walton, and will report to Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of CNN parent company, Turner Broadcasting System. Walton had said in July he was leaving the network.
“Outside of my family and the Miami Dolphins, there is nothing I am as passionate about as journalism,” said Zucker in a statement. “I spent the most rewarding years of my career as a journalist.”
Zucker, who will be based at CNN in New York, gained a reputation as a news-producing whiz when he worked with Couric on NBC’s “Today” show.
He remained involved in decisions about programming and the strategic direction of NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC even after he was named CEO of NBCUniversal, a source close to him told the news agency earlier this week, when news first broke of his imminent appointment at CNN.
Zucker was heavily involved in a decision to move MSNBC hard left to counter Fox News, the source told the news agency, though that didn’t imply he would move CNN in a more partisan direction.
Since its beginnings as the first 24-hour cable news network, CNN has tried to hold the middle ground in its news coverage, a position that some blame for an erosion of its ratings.
As CNN’s viewership declined, ratings increased for rivals Fox News and MSNBC, which blend news with opinion and political commentary.
CNN has lagged Fox News Channel and MSNBC in prime-time viewers for more than a year. On a regular news night, CNN draws fewer than 1 million U.S. prime-time viewers, compared with about 2.7 million for Fox News Channel and about 1.5 million viewers for MSNBC, according to ratings data.
Zucker is now tasked with improving the performance of a network that saw its prime time ratings hit a 21-year low during the second quarter of this year.