CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Faces Contract Renewal in 2021, and His Future at Network Is in Doubt, WSJ Reports

CNN President Jeff Zucker

Photo credit: Jason Kempin, Getty Images for Turner

The future of CNN president Jeff Zucker at the network is in doubt, as he faces a contract renewal in 2021 after being recently stripped of some of his responsibilities in the wake of AT&T’s acquisition of the news network in 2019.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the 55-year-old media titan, who has run the network since 2013, has reportedly grown frustrated with the executive jockeying inside the corporation and his new boss, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. Though Zucker was given responsibility over the new company’s sports division after the merger—a significant broadening of his portfolio—Kilar subsequently took away Zucker’s control of CNN’s finances, human resources, and communications department as part of a broader consolidation under the parent company.

Asked about his future in a town hall video chat on Wednesday, Mr. Zucker said he loves his job, but added, “The industry is changing, our company is changing, so I have a lot to think about,” according to a recording of his remarks. He added, “I’ll do that at the right time.”

Mr. Zucker said he won’t make a decision on whether to stay at CNN until after the election.

Zucker’s tenure has been marked by notably successes, but the news judgment of the famously micromanaging network president has also been singled out for intense criticism. While CNN has enjoyed huge ratings spikes in the run up to both the 2016 and 2020 elections, he has been publicly called out — even by some of CNN’s high-profile talent — for orchestrating huge chunks of free airtime to Donald Trump’s campaigns.

But since becoming president, however, Trump has routinely targeted CNN as his biggest media adversary, and repeatedly labels it an “enemy” and attacks its on-air personalities.

“When Mr. Kilar succeeded John Stankey atop WarnerMedia earlier this year,” the Journal explained, “he carried out another overhaul in August that took away from Mr. Zucker oversight of CNN’s finances and human resources, as well as communications—an area run by one of Mr. Zucker’s top lieutenants, Allison Gollust. The changes annoyed and surprised Mr. Zucker.”

Though Zucker’s contract isn’t due for renewal until later next year, negotiations to re-up his role as network chief are not due to begin until after the election. But if the TV news veteran continues to be elbowed out of the way as AT&T restructures around a more digital and subscription-based future for its media properties, he could leave CNN early, the Journal notes.

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