The New York Post reported on Friday that Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, is putting together a list of potential candidates to run CNN Worldwide and hopefully reverse the steep ratings decline the network has been suffering from lately.
CNN, which recently celebrated its 32nd birthday as the nation’s first cable news channel, has seen its fortunes wane. First, Fox News supplanted it as the number one rated cable news channel, and more recently CNN registered decades-low ratings in both daytime and primetime.
The current president of CNN Worldwide is Jim Walton, whose contract doesn’t end until Dec. 31 and who is definitely on the hot seat thanks to CNN’s poor performance. But according to the Post, no changes will likely be made before the Nov. 6 elections.
Jeff Zucker, the former NBC Universal CEO, is the name being floated most often as the replacement for Walton at CNN. Zucker has a friendly relationship with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, but he isn’t known as the easiest person to get along with.
The ratings plunge couldn’t have come at a worse time, according to the Post, with Madison Avenue in the process of allocating its annual ad dollars.
Even though CNN’s ad revenue has grown 12 percent over the last two years, it’s the smallest increase in comparison to its closest rivals, including sister network HLN which grew ad revenues by 20 percent in the same period.
The result of the poor ratings has been that CNN has had to do a lot of make-goods to advertisers for falling short of viewership guarantees. The more make-goods, the lower the overall revenue growth. And with ratings down sharply, they won’t be able to command the same ad rates they did a year ago and that could result in little or no ad revenue growth going forward.
But Walton may not be the only one whose job is in jeopardy. CNN executive vice president of CNN/US Ken Jautz may also find himself looking for a new job after the elections. Jautz was hired in September 2010 from HLN to take over the foundering network and hopefully replicate the same type of success he had at HLN. But since taking over the network, it has only slid further into the ratings abyss, with no end in sight.
Time Warner is banking on the elections giving CNN a boost and buying it some time as it considers making management changes. But that boost isn’t likely to come until we draw closer to Nov. 6, leaving CNN badly exposed for the next 3-4 months and making it even harder for any new management team to turn the network around.