You may soon not recognize the world’s oldest cable news network. Just weeks after Jeff Zucker took the reins as president of CNN Worldwide, a unit of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX), big changes are being unleashed, and reports are coming in by the second.
On Tuesday, Zucker released a statement saying that Chris Cuomo will host a new morning show on CNN. Cuomo, the younger brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will leave his current position as the anchor of “20/20” on ABC, a unit of Disney (NYSE:DIS). Rumors of the change had already been reported by several news outlets, including the New York Post. The yet-to-be-titled show is part of Zucker’s plan to revitalize CNN’s morning lineup. Soon after the deal was announced, Deadline, citing unnamed sources, reported that Zucker is planning to move “OutFront” host Erin Burnett to mornings as Cuomo’s cohost. Burnett’s evening show has struggled in the ratings, and rumors that Zucker would move her to the mornings have been swelling for several weeks.
That’s not the only change that came to light this week. FishbowlDC reported Tuesday that married pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin will not be renewing their contracts as CNN contributors. Carville, the Democratic strategist whose Southern drawl and angular baldpate have long been a fixture on the network, told Politico that CNN was pressuring him to appear more frequently, something his schedule precluded. “I’m completely cool with it,” he said of his departure.
Conservative commentator Erick Erickson is leaving the network as well, departing for a position at the more fitting Fox News, a unit of News Corp (Nasdaq:NWSA), Politico reports. Erickson caused a backlash in September when, via Twitter, he likened the Democratic National Convention to the play “The Vagina Monologues.”
Finally, CNN’s day of change was punctuated by news that Managing Editor Mark Whitaker is quitting the network. “We have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand,” Whitaker wrote in a memo to staffers. Whitaker, who came to CNN two years ago from NBC, controlled by Comcast (Nasdaq:CMCSA), took credit for some of the network’s recent hires, including Morgan Spurlock and Anthony Bourdain, who will be doing weekend shows.
CNN has consistently placed third in the ratings behind its more partisan rivals, Fox News and MSNBC. Zucker, the former wunderkind of NBCUniversal, was hired largely because of his knack for personality-driven news -- and for his ability to shake things up. At the age of 26, he became the youngest-ever executive producer of the “Today” show, which earned the title of the most-watched morning show under his tenure. Zucker eventually climbed the ladder to become president and CEO of the company.
Despite CNN’s struggles, the network still routinely emerges as a ratings winner during big news events. Most recently, it placed first during the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. Only time will tell if Zucker’s changes can help it retain that momentum on slow news days.