CNN Worldwide has named former NBCUniversal chief executive Jeff Zucker as its new president.
Zucker will step into the role in January, succeeding Jim Walton, who had been with the cable news giant for 31 years, with the last 10 as president of CNN Worldwide.
In making the announcement Thursday (November 29), Phil Kent, chairman and CEO of CNN parent company Turner Broadcasting System, said Zucker’s “experience as a news executive is unmatched for its breadth and success.
“He built and sustained the number-one brand in morning news, and under his watch NBC’s signature news programming set a standard for quality and professionalism,” Kent said in a statement. “As a programmer, a brand-builder and a leader, he will bring energy and new thinking to CNN. I couldn’t be happier to welcome him or more excited about what he’ll accomplish here.”
Zucker began his 25-year career with NBC as a researcher for the U.S. broadcaster’s coverage of the Summer Olympic Games. He was named executive producer of its flagship morning program Today in 1992, a post he held for eight years, and also served as EP for the network’s nightly news.
Over the span of his time with the Peacock, he was promoted to president of NBC Entertainment, president of the NBC Entertainment, News & Cable group and ultimately, president and CEO of the NBC Universal Television Group.
Zucker left NBCUniversal following Comcast’s acquisition of a majority stake. His last years at the network group included shuffling late-night host Jay Leno into a primetime berth, a move that raised eyebrows but not ratings.
Currently, Zucker is executive producing the syndicated daytime talk show Katie, hosted by former Today anchor Katie Couric.
“Outside of my family and the Miami Dolphins, there is nothing I am as passionate about as journalism,” said Zucker via the statement. “I spent the most rewarding years of my career as a journalist, and it’s where I look forward to spending many more. I am grateful to Phil Kent for this opportunity, and I’m excited to return to daily newsgathering and compelling storytelling in a place that values those above all else.”
When the announcement was made regarding Walton’s departure, the longtime CNN exec told staff via an internal email that “CNN needs new thinking. That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that in a conference call with journalists following the announcement, Zucker said he would be keen to see the news network broaden its scope.
“News is not just about politics and war,” he told reporters. “The definition of news is broader than perhaps has been historically thought about here.”
Recently, CNN in the U.S. has announced its plans to expand into further non-fiction programming, bringing on Anthony Bourdain to host a weekend program, and Morgan Spurlock to host Inside Man, which will see the documentarian provide an “inside view” to aspects of American life.