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Time Warner Considers CNN Overhaul

James Hirsen By Monday, 11 June 2012 09:45 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Time Warner is reportedly looking to replace executives at the company’s subsidiary, CNN, in order to curb an unprecedented ratings slide. The 32-year-old cable news network has sunk to its lowest ratings in 20 years.

In May 2012 CNN’s primetime ratings were 44th in the advertisers’ coveted 25-to-54-year-old demographic, placing the network even lower in the ratings hierarchy than OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s struggling cable channel.

The abysmal ranking was revealed at a time of year when advertisers allocate media money, and the plunge is sure to slow CNN’s already low ad revenue growth of 12 percent.

Those who run the publicly traded Time Warner, the second largest media and entertainment conglomerate in terms of revenue, have no choice but to take action. Senior executives at the multinational media corporation have put together a list of possible candidates to head CNN Worldwide, according to the New York Post.

Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes issued a statement when the record-low ratings were made public, indicating that he and others at the company were “clearly not satisfied” with CNN’s situation. Bewkes promised that action would be taken.

Jim Walton, who currently runs CNN Worldwide, is reportedly on the bubble. His contract is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

Insiders in the news business have revealed that Jeff Zucker, former president and CEO of NBC Universal, is one of the individuals who is being considered to lead a CNN revival.

This is the same executive about whom New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd once opined that in Hollywood “there has been a single topic of discussion: How does Jeff Zucker keep rising and rising while the fortunes of NBC keep falling and falling?”

The columnist added that many in the Hollywood community regarded Zucker as a “network Napoleon who never bothered to learn about developing shows and managing talent” and that “he could not program the network to save his life.”

During Zucker’s term, NBC went from being the No. 1-rated network to holding the lowest rating of the four broadcast networks.

In 2010, after late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien went through a schedule shuffling, the Los Angeles Times reported that Zucker's tenure had led to “a spectacular fall by the country's premier television network” and described the resultant intra-network conflicts and public relations effects as “one of the biggest debacles in television history.”

Zucker purportedly has a friendly relationship with Bewkes but is under contract with Disney until early next year, serving as an executive producer of “Katie,” the daytime talk show hosted by former CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. Additionally, Zucker served as executive producer of “Today” in the 1990s.

The senior brass will also be taking a look at executive vice president of CNN/US Ken Jautz, who in the fall of 2010 was brought from HLN to elevate the then-declining audience.

The switching of top executives frequently results in a lineup change.

With this in mind, it is a pretty safe bet that the staffers and personalities involved in “Piers Morgan Tonight,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” “Erin Burnett OutFront,” and “The Situation Room” are on the proverbial pins and needles.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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Monday, 11 June 2012 09:45 AM
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