Translation: More Anthony Bourdain and “Blackfish”-type programming, less newscasts
CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker does not think that his news channel — or any for that matter — can exist solely on reporting the news.
Instead, Zucker wants to diversify CNN's programming with “an attitude and a take,” grabbing viewers who are watching Discovery Channel, History, Nat Geo and A&E.
In his first one-on-one interview since taking control of the organization last January, Zucker told Capital New York he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”
“People who traditionally just watch the cable news networks [are] a great audience,” he said. “I'm not trying to alienate that audience. But the overall cable news audience has not grown in the last 12 years, OK? So, all we're doing is trading [audience] share. … We also want to broaden what people can expect from CNN.”
And why not? The No. 1 show on his news network is “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” a travel-adventure show with a celebrity chef.
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Zucker said that internally, his formula for success is finally being adopted because the results are evident. It doesn't mean that the executive has a full whiteboard of greenlit cutting-edge programming at this point — but he's working on it.
More series and films — such as the successful documentary, “Blackfish” — will get runs in primetime.
“Yes, there will be more and, yes, they will not just be on Sundays…,” Zucker said. “I think it will expand past just the weekends, and so there's a little piece of news for you… This is a primetime play. It's too expensive to confine it to weekends.”
Among those primetime options: half-hour shows, possibly one for the newly hired Bill Weir. But it's still too early for even the boss to say.
“Honestly, there is not a piece of paper that has the lineup on it right now,” Zucker said.
As for HLN, don't expect straight courtroom coverage going forward. The net will be “rethought, reimagined, and rebranded,” Zucker said.
With all of the properties under Zucker's umbrella, the new-look CNN will come in myriad forms. His commitment to digital is constantly being renewed by how people consume CNN's still-primary product, breaking news.
“This weekend, we had more people learn about ['Fast & Furious' actor] Paul Walker's death from our mobile products than from our desktop products, which was the first time that something like that had happened,” Zucker said.
“In five years,” Zucker added, “mobile video consumption with three little red letters called CNN is what the future looks like. I think that there are three incredible brands in the news and information space. I think ESPN owns sports, I think the Weather Channel owns weather, and I want CNN to own news and information in the global digital video space.”