Around this time last year, the story on CNN finally started to change. The network faltered after a months-long bout of crisis and controversy, which eventually claimed primetime star jobs Chris Cuomo, beloved network boss Jeff Zucker, and top manager communication/marketing Allison Gollust. Then came the war in Ukraine, a global catalyst that nevertheless reminded the world of CNN’s purpose and mission during moments of international turmoil, putting into perspective all those distracting headlines about messy personnel affairs. Chris Light in a note to employees, “how you cover the still-unfolding story about Ukraine. It’s a great example of CNN’s power and impact.”
Twelve months later, as CNN continues its heroic coverage of the carnage in Eastern Europe, the distracting headlines are back in full force. Light has endured its fair share of bumpy news stories in its nine-month tenure, but in recent weeks Drama on the set of CNN’s new morning show, which is Licht’s number one programming priority to date — and one that seems to have a long, hard road in terms of building an audience — has sparked a tabloid frenzy. recent ripple in the saga, where Don lemon‘s disastrous comments about Nikki Haley and the age that constitutes a woman’s “prime” elevated the situation from a New York Post And Daily mail spectacular in the pages of The New York Times And The Washington Post, with Lightly running damage control internally.
The final twist came in a Page Six headline that came full circle: “CNN Staff Divided on Executive Loyalty as Don Lemon Drama Continues.” As one source told the oft-omniscient gossip column, the network’s ranks have splintered into “Pro-Zucker” and “Pro-Light” contingents — call them Zuckerites and Lichtians, if you will. But here’s the part of the story that raised eyebrows: “Zucker’s clout is still looming, and a source told Page Six that the ousted honcho even wanted to try to buy CNN, but the new regime would never let such a deal happen. A Zucker insider said, “He made overtures to buy CNN, but they wouldn’t allow it.”
On Wednesday, my phone started lighting up with responses to the page six entry. “Everyone in Hudson Yards is talking about it,” one person told me from CNN headquarters on Manhattan’s West Side, adding the Zucker tidbit: “Everyone thinks there’s something going on.” (There’s no doubt a bit of wishful thinking among the Zuckerites.) This next installment was probably to be expected, but I spoke to four very well-placed sources who poured cold water on Zuckerite’s idea — now CEO of a $1 billion fund that targets is on investments in sports and entertainment – plays for CNN. The comments I got ranged from “not true” to “nonsense” to “beyond fantasy.” (Zucker’s spokesperson had no comment.)
The Zucker intrigue ties into a more general rumor that has been quietly circulating for the past few weeks: that CNN is for sale. parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery In private conversations, CEO of Warner David Zaslav continues to talk enthusiastically about CNN, telling his colleagues that he feels like the network is moving forward despite all the noise, and that success will go a long way (although he could certainly do without headaches, like the Lemon Imbroglio.) He also talked about how CNN convinced Republican lawmakers to return to the network, signaling a deliberate shift from the partisan rap it garnered during the Trump years. Sources spelled it out bluntly: “CNN is not for sale.” (Required warning: Anything can happen.)
Representatives from CNN and WBD declined to comment. But if Zaslav has something to say publicly about CNN, we won’t have to wait long to hear it: He’ll be speaking Thursday at 4:30 p.m. (East Coast time) during WBD’s latest quarterly earnings call.