CNN chief Jeff Zucker has ‘no interest in running ESPN,’ spokesperson says
CNN is shooting down reports that its president Jeff Zucker is a candidate to run the Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.
Disney has been looking for a new top executive to run the beleaguered sports media giant since the sudden departure of John Skipper, who left the company Dec. 18 to deal with a drug addiction problem.
The website Deadline reported Friday that Zucker, 52, has been in discussions about the job. But a CNN spokesperson said Zucker is happy in his current position and has no plans to bolt.
“Jeff loves his job at CNN and has no interest in running ESPN,” a representative for the cable news channel said.
Chatter that Zucker and Disney have talked about the position has circulated among sports TV executives amid questions about his future at CNN, where he is under contract at least through the end of the year.
CNN parent Time Warner Inc. is headed to federal court in March as the Justice Department has filed suit to stop AT&T’s $85-billion deal to acquire the media conglomerate. The government has raised concerns that the merger could raise prices for pay-TV subscribers.
President Trump’s personal animus for CNN, which he contends has covered him unfairly, has led to speculation that AT&T would jettison Zucker in order to smooth the path for the merger.
But Zucker remains committed to the network, according to one person who does business with CNN and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Along with ratings and record profits for the news channel, Zucker thrives on being part of an organization that is a central part of the country’s political discourse in the age of Trump.
Whoever runs ESPN will have to deal with changing habits of TV viewers who are increasingly turning away from cable to get their video content online. ESPN is coping with the decline in cable subscribers who provide substantial revenue for the channel while dealing with the escalating rights fees demanded by sports leagues.
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