Jeff Zucker Says CNN Is ‘Owning the Political Conversation’

“CNN is the only cable news network this cycle to host debates with both sides of the aisle,” the CNN Worldwide president told staffers in a memo

Jeff Zucker
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CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker is confident his network is “owning the political conversation.”

“I could not be prouder of where CNN is today,” Zucker told staff on Monday in a memo obtained by TheWrap. “Relevant, timely, topical, breaking news on a daily basis and owning the political conversation, through our daily coverage, programming and debates and town halls.”

CNN has had quite a few weeks, beating MSNBC in dueling Town Halls, winning the key news demographic during Saturday’s big news day and dominating digital political news traffic for the month of January.

The network also saw significant growth in January, gaining 40 percent in primetime, among total viewers, compared to last year. Now the boss has taken notice.

Zucker’s note broke the company down into departments, noting positive developments each. He mentioned that CNN is scheduled to host 15 debates and town halls this election cycle, with a Democratic Town Hall tonight and a GOP debate on Thursday.

It should be noted that according to Nielsen, much of the data in Zucker’s memo has been disputed. The discrepancy appears to be that most news organizations use Live + same day, while CNN uses a blend of Nielsen Live +same day and Live +3 and final Live+7 data when available. In laymen’s terms, CNN counts people watching their programming recorded via DVR while Fox News, among other new networks, only count viewers who watch its programs immediately.

Read entire memo below:

February 22, 2016

What a year it has been! And it’s not even March yet. Because of the extraordinary number of events that we are currently staging and covering in the United States, it has been difficult to schedule one of our monthly broadcast town halls. But I didn’t want to let too much time pass without you hearing directly from me. So I wanted to take a few minutes to bring you up to date on what we’re doing and how we’re doing.

CNN – I could not be prouder of where CNN is today. Relevant, timely, topical, breaking news on a daily basis and owning the political conversation, through our daily coverage, programming and debates and town halls. CNN will broadcast three of the next four Presidential debates (two Republican and one Democratic), including this Thursday night’s GOP debate in Houston, moderated by Wolf Blitzer.  This is a testament to something very important — CNN is the only cable news network this cycle to host debates with both sides of the aisle. Through this cycle, CNN is confirmed to host 15 debates and town halls; the most anyone else is scheduled to host is four. From an audience perspective, the viewers are watching. CNN is enjoying its best ratings since 2008 (both total day viewers and prime time demos). Compared to 2012, CNN has grown its share of the cable news audience by 6 points, while Fox’s share has declined 4 points and MSNBC has declined 7 points. CNN is as close to Fox in viewers as we have been since 2009 and adults 25-54 as we have been since 2008. And CNN is beating MSNBC for the fourth straight year and second straight year in prime time. And one final note about how far we have come: CNN beat Fox News in prime time demos in September, October and December. And we are on pace to do so again this month. That would be 4 out of the last 6 months CNN has beaten Fox in prime time demos, the first time that has happened in more than 14 years. I should also note that while the Presidential race has dominated much of our coverage the last few months, our domestic and international coverage of stories as varied as the continuing civil war in Syria, the war against ISIS and the Zika virus in the Western hemisphere has been exceptional.

CNN INTERNATIONAL – Last week, CNNI was honored with two prestigious awards from the Royal Television Society (RTS).  First was for our breaking news coverage of last year’s Paris Terror Attacks, and Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir was named Journalist of the Year. Two tremendous honors for our unmatched international team.  While much of the focus of late has been on the US Presidential race, the teams at CNNI have continued to provide unparalleled coverage of the major events around the world, keeping all of CNN’s coverage well-rounded and current.  None of our competitors has this advantage.

CNN DIGITAL – A phenomenal start to the year, with CNN ranked the number two site in multiplatform uniques, ahead of Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today . CNN is number one in video, multiplatform views and social.

CNNPOLITICS – We have begun the election year just as we ended it in 2015: the number one source of political news, with record breaking traffic to begin 2016. was the dominant source of political news in January, with a record 26 million multiplatform unique visitors, staggering triple digit growth compared to January 2015. In the first month of this year, CNN Politics outperformed all competitors in comScore’s Politics category, easily besting second-place HuffPost Politics and maintained its dominant position as the Web’s number one source of political news. For perspective on just how dominant CNN is, its 26 million multiplatform unique visitors in January more than doubled the number of visitors to Fox News Politics and MSNBC TV, its 55 million video starts (up 85% over the prior year) was more than double its closest competitor and triple the video starts of Fox News Politics and MSNBC TV, and its 170 million multiplatform views in January (up 265% over the prior year) nearly doubled its closest competitor, HuffPost Politics, and outperformed third place Politico by almost 100 million views.

GREAT BIG STORY – We launched this new business less than four months ago. And it is off to a tremendous start. It is reaching 26 million people every week and the average age of its user is 25 years old. The content is resonating deeply: GBS stories have been shared by fans 180,000 times in the last thirty days. And this months sees the launch of two fantastic brand partnerships, with custom campaigns from Hewlett Packard and GE.

CNN en ESPA?’OL – Our excellent political coverage isn’t limited to just our domestic network.  CNN en Español and the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies at the City University of New York have partnered to provide an exclusive focus on Latino voters in America, the fastest growing minority voting block that could play an instrumental role in determining the next President. Their research efforts will be shared across several of our platforms, truly tapping into something special that CNNE can provide, and enhancing all our coverage.

– With new leadership in place, HLN is busy working on what its new programming lineup will look like.  Meanwhile, Robin Meade and the Morning Express team continue their enormously successful run. As we bring HLN closer to CNN, in terms of both how it is run and programmed, we are already seeing improvement.  Stay tuned for more from HLN very soon.

ORIGINAL SERIES – We are about to launch our newest series on CNN, Race for the White House, narrated and executive produced by Kevin Spacey. This dramatic look at some of the most fascinating (and dirtiest) US Presidential races in history will premiere March 6th at 10 pm ET, immediately following the Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan. Also coming in the next two months are the return of The Wonder List, Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown and the premieres of The Eighties and Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America.

CNN EXPERIENCE – I wanted you to know that our CNN Sales team has been hosting many of the Madison Avenue advertising agencies in a series of meetings, called the CNN Experience, in our studios in New York. The purpose is to let the advertising world know about all the tremendous success we are currently enjoying and look ahead to what’s on tap for 2017. The meetings have gone very well, and the Sales team has done an excellent job taking advantage of all of our recent wins.  Quite frankly, these meetings could not be coming at a better time.

It has been an extraordinary start to 2016. I want to thank each of you for all you do, every day, around the world, to make this happen.  We have, as they say, miles to go before we sleep.  But despite all the long hours and non-stop news, I hope you are having as much fun with all of this as I am.  Thank you.