NYP: In the weeks leading up Jeff Zucker’s official start date at CNN the ex-NBC chief set up a series of dinners with Washington, DC, insiders, and then jetted to Atlanta to check the lay of the land.
Zucker also alerted the Los Angeles talent agencies — even prior to his first call with reporters about landing the new job — to say he’s in the market for TV hosts.
And before the ink was dry on his business cards, Zucker named ABC News’ Chris Cuomo as one of hias morning-show hosts. Erin Burnett, a darling of Zucker’s from her CNBC days, will likely be co-host.
Zucker took a breather and then hired ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols, who debuts this weekend in a show co-branded with Bleacher Report, a sports site just acquired by CNN’s parent, Turner Broadcasting.
“He’s done more in the past two weeks than anyone has done in the past two years,” said one longtime staffer.
CNN already looks different. Sources say that when Zucker, 47, heard of Oprah’s big Lance Armstrong get, he ran over to Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” producers and told them to scrap what they were working on and to get a panel discussion featuring the wife of a cyclist whom Armstrong spoke about.
Zucker is telling reporters and producers to broaden their definition of news and include a greater selection of topics.
On Thursday, as other networks covered sober political news, CNN aired Beyoncé’s Super Bowl press conference where she broke into the national anthem to prove she could sing as well as lip-sync.
The moves, while widely welcomed by many at CNN, will rankle the old guard. Last week, Mark Whitaker, CNN’s managing editor, hung up his hat. Zucker immediately moved up the morning editorial meeting from 10 a.m. to 9.
The boss is in a nondescript office in the middle of the fifth-floor news room at Time Warner’s HQ in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.
Zucker has struck up a good relationship with Ken Jautz, who runs the CNN’s US operations, while Zucker’s role is global, a source tells The Post.
No one could accuse Zucker of being slow out of the gate. He has spent two years champing at the bit after being dumped as chief executive of NBCUniversal by Steve Burke, who took his place.
Zucker has NBC’s “Today” show squarely in his firing line. CNN’s new morning show is being prepped for an April launch, just a month before the critical upfront buying gets started on Madison Avenue, insiders told The Post.
While no one expects Zucker to steal share from the get-go, the revamped offering will no doubt get all the marketing and promotional support that Zucker is famed for.
“Other news organizations have eaten their lunch,” notes GroupM’s managing director, Gibbs Haljun, who is one of the most influential media buyers on Madison Avenue.
CNN’s domestic TV ad revenue fell 7 percent, to $378.5 million, in 2012, according to SNL Kagan figures, and that was an election year. Compare those numbers with Fox News (owned by News Corp., as is The Post), which saw ad revenue rise 12 percent, to $838.8 million, and MSNBC, which saw ad dollars up 8 percent, to $277 million.