By Helen Coster
(Reuters) – CNN President Jeff Zucker will leave the cable news network at the end of 2021, CNN said on Thursday.
“The truth is, back in November and December, I had basically decided that it was time to move on now,” Zucker told employees on a morning call on Thursday. “But since then, I’ve had a change of heart. And I want to stay. Not forever, but for another year.”
Zucker, who joined CNN in 2013, has a storied reputation in the TV business marked by early success. He was the executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in his 20s, then became the president of NBC Entertainment.
CNN, part of AT&T Inc’s WarnerMedia division, has seen an uptick in ratings as the United States enters a new political era. It delivered record ratings in January as the top cable news network that month, with a 153% increase in total viewers from the same period a year ago.
Under WarnerMedia Chief Executive Jason Kilar, AT&T is investing heavily in its HBO Max streaming service, a company priority at a time when consumers are increasingly dropping their cable packages in favor of a la carte streaming services. That focus has led to speculation by media insiders that the company could spin off CNN – which AT&T has so far denied.
AT&T has been looking to sell off its non-core assets and pay off debt since CEO John Stankey took over in June. In December it announced plans to sell its animation business Crunchyroll to Sony Corp for $1.175 billion.
Sources have told Reuters AT&T has entered into exclusive talks to sell a minority stake in satellite television unit DirecTV to private equity firm TPG in a deal seen valuing the division at above $15 billion.
(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Howard Goller and Marguerita Choy)