There’s some scuttlebutt in media circles that current CNN president Jeff Zucker may be tapped to be the man to helm ESPN through some major imminent changes at the network. While nothing is confirmed yet, the rumor mill is loudly suggesting Zucker will be the one to replace recently resigned ESPN president John Skipper.
Disney, the parent company of ESPN, released a statement claiming to be looking both internally and externally at candidates to replace Skipper, but Zucker’s name keeps coming up. CNN is, currently, doing its best to squash those rumors. Allison Gollust, speaking for the network, told the media Zucker loves his job and plans to stay put.
Meanwhile, many other sources both inside and outside CNN have admitted Zucker has been in multiple meetings about the ESPN job, though none of those meetings were “in person.” Who initiated those calls? That fact is currently up for debate, but most have come to admit – despite CNN’s denials – that Zucker is being considered and is strongly considering a transition.
The move would be a blow to CNN. Currently, the constant butt of jokes by the president and his many supporters, CNN has come, to many, to personify the “fake news” allegation against modern TV journalism. The network has weathered hit after hit from competitors and many elected officials as well.
Meanwhile, Zucker has been nothing but good news for the brand, helping increase network ratings, as well as overall profits. Zucker has also been a strong advocate for his reporters in the face of constant and withering criticism from the highest office in the land.
But, where CNN represents one kind of challenge, ESPN represents quite another. Media consumption habits are shifting, and ESPN is on the front lines of this transition. The network will soon launch its branded streaming service, meant to work with the Disney brand and in competition with the cable providers that used to be its bread and butter.
As streaming media becomes more of a force in all media, ESPN is strongly positioned to be an industry leader and innovator. People still love live sports, and the fan following for ESPN’s cadre of shows and personalities is strong.
So, is he or isn’t he? Will he or won’t he? At present, the best we have is speculation and adamant denial. Of course, the latter of those two could almost be considered a tipping of the hand. When it comes to high-profile corporate gigs, a denial is almost as good as a confession. If the rumors do turn out to be true, what happens next for CNN and ESPN? Who will be the next great defender of TV news to stand up and take the heat?