David Zaslav wants to distinguish CNN from “advocacy networks”

He was the president of Warner Bros. David Zaslav of Discovery wants CNN to focus on the facts and distance itself from the cable news industry, which he says is monopolized by “defense networks.”

Zaslav, who took over the leadership of the new company this week, wasted no time laying out his vision for the media giant, which includes HBO, CNN, TLC, HGTV and film studio Warner Bros. AT&T has split from WarnerMedia in a $43 billion merger with Discovery, which closed last Friday.

In an hour-long interview Thursday with Oprah Winfrey at a theater on Warner Bros. grounds. In Burbank, California, Zaslav addressed questions about CNN’s future, as well as the company’s various broadcast offerings and its $3 billion savings plan.

CEO Winfrey told CNN it should be about reporting, truth, and facts. “If we get that,” he said, “we could have a civilized society.” Without it, if everything became a fetishist, we would not have a civilized society.

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, said it would focus on amplifying CNN’s news coverage.
Getty Images for Discovery, Inc.

CNN has been under the microscope for most of the year for its mishandling of the high-profile scandals under former President Jeff Zucker. Chief among them was Zucker’s handling of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who fired him in December. It was discovered that the broadcaster was secretly helping defend his beleaguered older brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after allegations of sexual harassment led to his resignation.

Soon, Zucker resigned in February, citing an affair with a colleague. The impasse caused outrage among CNN staff, who were angered by Zucker’s exit and the idea that Cuomo would receive a massive severance package, despite breaching journalistic standards over his brother’s coverage.

But even before that, billionaire media mogul John Malone – a confidant of Zaslav – and a board member of the combined company, criticized CNN for its biased coverage.

CNN has been weighed down by scandal in recent months, following the departure of anchor Chris Cuomo and longtime president Jeff Zucker.
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“I’d like to see CNN go back to the kind of journalism it started with, have reporters, and that’s going to be unique and refreshing,” Malone said in an interview with CNBC last November. “I believe that good journalism can have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery-TimeWarner will represent.”

Under Zucker’s successor, Chris Licht, the executive producer who spent stints on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, CNN is set to undergo an overhaul that includes more challenging news and fewer opinion programming. mail. .

That includes a closer look at the strategy behind CNN+’s new streaming service, as well as, more broadly, a scalpel for layoffs from the media giant’s streaming services, such as HBO Max and Discovery+.

At Thursday’s meeting, Zaslav warned of the potential for staff cuts as he continued to cut leadership layers and combine jobs. As part of the CEO’s focus on cost savings, he reiterated his intent to combine the two services.

A general view shows the scene during a guided tour prior to a CNN and Facebook-sponsored Democratic presidential debate in Wynn Las Vegas.
CNN has been criticized for moving from its journalistic roots to more politically-leaning coverage.
Getty Images

We don’t want to go to eight places. “We want to go to one place and we want to see everything we want to see,” Zaslav told consumers at Discovery at the time, according to the Wall Street Journal. “When we put it together, we had much more success.”

Hollywood insiders were worried about this strategy because it might bury some of the media giant’s massive content. Others were more concerned that Zaslav was focusing too much on cost-cutting and questioned. Whether the CEO has “the guts” to spend on big-budget movies and TV shows to support business growth while cutting costs.

They said Zaslav might be offended by the posters because the budgets for the movie are much larger than for reality TV, which is the bulk of Discovery’s business.

“He’s a very smart guy,” a studio executive told The Post last month, dismissing that concern. “I think it’s up to the task.”

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