The stars of CNN were fired up at the Jan. 10 party that followed the news channel's Television Critics Association press tour session. Their boss, Jeff Zucker, had come out swinging at Fox News chairman Roger Ailes for his recent remark that CNN "is out of the news business" — a swipe at the channel's stated intention to look for programming outside of traditional news shows. Zucker, citing a new book about Ailes, countered that his top-rated competitor is an arm of the Republican Party "masquerading as a news channel."
A Fox News spokesperson says Zucker was looking to deflect attention from CNN's ratings issues. Even if that was the case, CNN's on-air talent and producers welcomed Zucker's combativeness. Nearly all of those who attended the party thanked him for standing up for them.
While Zucker's style is energizing CNN's staff, the network still faces the challenge of growing its primetime audience. Zucker's strategy of broadening the channel's offerings to include documentaries and series (once staples of CNN's line-up in previous decades when the network was considered more serious) has delivered a few ratings wins. But it continues to be a tricky balancing act as viewers still expect the network to be the go-to destination for breaking news. On Jan. 9, CNN's latest film offering, Sole Survivor (which told the stories of people who've lived through plane crashes), finished behind Fox News Channel's and MSNBC's coverage of Gov. Chris Christie's troubles over the George Washington Bridge lane closings. The Biz followed up with Zucker after his TCA session.
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NBC announced on April 3 that Jay Leno will once again hand over the reins of NBC's Tonight Show — which he began hosting in 1992 — this time to Late Night's Jimmy Fallon. Leno says that after he signs off in February 2014, you'll find him in his garage. But it's more likely the car enthusiast will be back in front of a camera than under the hood of a classic Chevy.
One industry insider who knows Leno says two cable networks have already approached the comic about launching a new show after he leaves NBC. By that time, Leno will be 64 — considered over the hill for the 18- to 49-year-old viewers advertisers seek in late night. But in the wider TV landscape, where octogenarians such as Barbara Walters and Regis Philbin still hold jobs, he's practically a youngster.