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Since CNN worldwide president Jim Walton announced he would be stepping down at the end of the year, former NBCUniversal chief executive Jeff Zucker has been on the top of the list to succeed him. Multiple reports on Tuesday suggest that he is already in advanced discussions and very close to taking the position.
Sources for The Los Angeles Times said that he is in advanced talks, which have heated up in recent weeks, since Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes and Turner Broadcasting Chairman Phil Kent want a replacement ready the moment Walton’s resignation takes effect.
News executives close to Zucker told The New York Times that a deal has already been made and CNN is ready to make the announcement soon. Another source close to Bewkes also confirmed this, while a TimeWarner spokesperson would not comment.
Zucker left NBC almost two years ago and his most recent position was executive producer on Katie Couric’s new syndicated talk show Katie. Although he had success with the Today Show, that was over a decade ago. He left the program in 2000 to lead the network’s prime-time lineup.
While Zucker has been a favorite to take the job, earlier this month, former Dick Clark Productions CEO Mark Shapiro was reportedly also in the running. Shapiro has little experience in news aside from his work at ESPN, so he is considered a long shot at this point.
Zucker will have to try to help CNN, which has had to compete with FoxNews and MSNBC for viewers. Both networks do have opinion programs mixed in with regular news. Despite the presidential election in November, the NY Times notes that CNN actually saw its average number of viewers drop 16 percent through mid-November.