CNN president Jeff Zucker, who has just passed the one-year mark at the helm of the pioneering cable news network, told TV Guide Magazine that it will take years to turn around the network, and that they aren’t under any pressure to change the primetime lineup:
TV Guide Magazine: Overall, has it been tougher to turn around the channel’s ratings than you anticipated?
Zucker: The turnaround will take years. But we just went from third place to second place ahead of MSNBC. [In 2013, CNN topped MSNBC in total viewers for the first time in two years, while finishing third in primetime].
TV Guide Magazine: How soon do you have to make changes to your primetime line-up?
Zucker: We don’t have to do anything. When we find good and smart on-brand programming that’s ready to go, we’ll look for a place for it. We’re not under any pressure.
Not under any pressure? Is this the same guy who just last week told Ad Age that it was “safe to say that 2014 will be the year we shake up prime time?”
In reality, Zucker and CNN are under pressure. The primetime lineup, which consists of Piers Morgan sandwiched in between two Anderson Cooper programs, often struggles to top 100,000 viewers in the key 25-54 demo, and on some nights falls to fourth place behind its smaller sister network HLN.
Zucker knows he has to do something. But instead of making big bold changes like ratings leader Fox News, he has chosen to take on the smaller, easier tasks—like the daytime programming—while ignoring the primetime lineup and its shows.
At the pace Zucker is going, it will take years to turn CNN around.
The question is, are his superiors at Time Warner willing to wait that long, or will they start looking for someone who is willing to do what is really necessary to revive the struggling network?