CNN’s economic future is closely tied to President Trump. It’s why Jeff Zucker is playing coy about whether he’s going to stay or go. But here’s a twist.
The contract negotiations are happening at the same time that CNN has become a target of takeover interest in the private-equity world. Recently, Mr. Zucker was made aware of investor interest in taking the network private, according to people familiar with the matter. One scenario floated was a management buyout that would see Mr. Zucker lead the network under new ownership, some of the people said. Mr. Zucker has indicated that would-be suitors should contact AT&T.
A. Zucker is playing a strange contract negotiating game.
B. Someone wants to buy CNN.
The question is why. CNN is not exactly a money machine. Its ratings are declining again and a cable news network has no real future. CNN, like a lot of big cable channels, makes its money from fees paid by carriers. As the existing cable model implodes with people cutting the cord, this particular strategy has no future. Cable networks, content creators and carriers are increasingly coming together to prep for the jump to streaming services. That will reduce CNN to one of the exclusives on HBO Max while cutting its content off from people who aren’t AT&T customers. It’s not a bright future, but what’s the alternative?
CNN is built around a dying business model. It already largely abandoned its old style of 24/7 news coverage for talking heads arguing about old news.
Who would want it?
Same question as to who would want the Washington Post, Time Magazine, The Atlantic, The New Republic, or any of the other media crown jewels snapped up by dot com billionaires who stripped them of everything except their brand names and turned them into propaganda organs. (To be fair, The Atlantic isn’t there just yet.)
Anyone paying a whole bunch of money to take CNN private is likely buying political influence.