PASADENA, CA–There are certain players in the TV racket who just jolt the room when they pop into press tour. For example: Jeff Zucker.
Now president of CNN Worldwide, the 48-year-old reinvented The Today Show half his lifetime ago. He went from Wunderkind to mere mortal after rising to the top at NBC Universal. On his watch as top NBC programmer, there were many mis-steps. The Lyon’s Den, Whoopi, Happy Family, Coupling, Miss-Match, Father of the Pride, Emeril–these are show titles that can still make grown men weep.
Still, Zucker was always a big press tour draw. He would show up for TCA executive sessions that were standing room only. Part of the fun was the sniping that went on between Zucker and other network executives, mainly CBS rival Leslie Moonves.
The gunslinger was back Friday as Zucker worked the room. When a reporter brought up Fox News boss Roger Ailes recent remark that CNN had thrown in the towel and were out of the news business, Zucker dismissed his rival’s comment as “silly, as evidenced by the fact that we happen to be in the news business as opposed to some other fair and balanced networks.”
He continued to trash talk Fox News, saying “the Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters masquerading as a cable channel.”
He quickly shot down rumours that Jay Leno was coming to CNN, saying, “That’s really not a priority for us at this time. We have some other things I’d like to concentrate on first.” Ditto for Ann Curry, who Zucker pointed out was under contract.
Zucker hung around later for a little off the record schmoozing at the CNN press tour pool party. He brings some much-needed swagger and push back to a news network which used to get sand kicked in its face all the time by the Fox News bullies.
CNN airlifted much of its on-air talent in from its Atlanta broadcast centre for the event, including Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan, Morgan Spurlock, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Newt Gingrich. Also poolside was long-time CTV executive Rick Lewchuk, now SVP Creative Services at CNN. Lewchuk was at press tour a night after Walter Levitt, a former Global marketing executive, was in town as the Chief Marketing Officer for Comedy Central. Funny how the Americans have turned to Canadians to sell their TV wares.

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