×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Jeff Zucker Expected to Gain Oversight of AT&T’s Turner Sports

Jeff Zucker, the leader of cable-news outlet CNN, is about to add sports to his portfolio, giving him expanded oversight of more of the most valuable content in today’s media landscape –  live programming.

Zucker is expected to head AT&T’s Turner Sports, according to three people familiar with the matter, broadening his influence at the telecom giant as it moves quickly to re-organize WarnerMedia, the media conglomerate it purchased in June for $81 billion. David Levy, the president of Turner, had supervision of its sports properties, but has decided to leave after he and AT&T could not come to terms on a new role at WarnerMedia.

A WarnerMedia spokesman declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Zucker could not be reached for immediate comment. The Wall Street Journal previously reported Zucker’s new duties. He would continue to lead CNN.

The sports job is an important one at AT&T. WarnerMedia’s Turner group enjoys a very close relationship with the National Basketball Association, worked with WME/IMG to start an e-sports league, and shares broadcast rights for the popular annual NCAA men’s basketball championship with CBS Corp. Turner’s NBA broadcasts alone generate millions of dollars in advertising revenue and give the unit leverage in its negotiations with cable and satellite broadcasters. Live sports programs have helped traditional media companies keep viewers from skipping past ads and migrating to streaming hubs.

Zucker, who has been an avid tennis player, has long been a sports fan. He tried to bring sports coverage to CNN early in his tenure there, hiring ESPN veteran Rachel Nichols in 2013 to lead CNN’s first sports-news program (a previous sports show, “Sports Tonight,” ran on the now-defunct CNN/SI cable network). But Nichols’ program was often pre-empted by breaking news.

He will face an important caveat: Zucker has no formal experience in sports management, though he did supervise NBC Sports as the head of NBCU.

The new role will extend Zucker’s unique journey in the media industry. He joined the unit once known as Time Warner after enjoying a meteoric rise at NBCUniversal. Starting as a young researcher out of Harvard University, Zucker would move quickly to become a star producer at NBC News; head of the company’s valuable “Today” show; the head of NBC Entertainment; and CEO of NBCUniversal while it was controlled by General Electric. Zucker surprised many observers when he took a job leading CNN after leaving NBCU once it came under Comcast’s control.

It wouldn’t be the first time Zucker has pushed boundaries. He has remade CNN, reorienting the news outlet once known for a vanilla presentation of the news into something with more spice, by doing things like dispatching an in-your-face newscaster, Chris Cuomo, to the network’s 9 p.m. slot. While CNN’s primetime viewership may trail that of leader Fox News Channel, the network has drawn some of its biggest viewership numbers during his tenure.

“It’s remarkable, his willingness to take a position that was two pegs down, and then perform full-throttle non-stop,” says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who studies CEOs as the senior associate dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management.  Zucker’s recent work at CNN has given him “the unrivaled loyalty of the CNN newsroom.” Now he will have to bring some of that acumen to bear on a different sector of the media industry.

 

More TV

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • Peter Chernin

    Peter Chernin: 'There's No Reason Hulu Shouldn't Be Netflix Today'

    The Chernin Group head and former News Corp. exec Peter Chernin believes that Hulu, not Netflix, should’ve been the dominant streaming platform of the modern era, blaming Fox and NBC for diminishing the streaming service he helped launch in 2007 in a joint venture with then-NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker. “The day we both left [in [...]

  • Golden Globes nominations predictions

    Golden Globes 2020 Predictions: What Movies and TV Shows Might Nab Nominations?

    Awards season kicks into higher gear on Monday, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announces nominations for its 2020 Golden Globe Awards, which cover the 2019 calendar year. Noms will give certain films momentum heading into the Oscar race, while it’s the first opportunity for many TV series to earn awards acclaim before competing for [...]

  • Sung Kang CAA

    Apple Drama 'Lisey's Story' Casts 'Fast & Furious' Alum Sung Kang

    “Lisey’s Story,” the upcoming Apple TV Plus drama from Stephen King and J.J. Abrams, has cast Sung Kang in a recurring role, Variety has learned. Kang joins previously announced stars Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Joan Allen, and Dane DeHaan. The eight-episode series is based on Stephen King’s 2006 book of the same name. It follows [...]

  • Astronomy Club Season 1

    Netflix's 'Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show': TV Review

    The premiere of “Astronomy Club” is so dense with fully-formed jokes, wry social commentaries, and wild left turns that you’d be forgiven for wondering if you accidentally dropped into the show’s second season rather than its first. There are sketches about a life or death hair emergency, the chain reaction of biases of people sizing [...]

  • ARDE-MADRId

    Beta Films Sells ‘Arde Madrid’ in the U.S., France, Brazil and Switzerland

    Jan Motjo’s Beta Films has found new broadcast homes for the Movistar Plus original series “Arde Madrid,” which won the Rose d’Or-Award for Best Comedy or Drama this past Sunday in London. The Virginia-based MHz Networks will broadcast the series in the U.S., France Televisions in France, HBO in Brazil and Teleclub in Switzerland. According [...]

  • Finn Jones Pico Alexander

    'Dickinson' Season 2 Adds Finn Jones, Pico Alexander

    The second season of Apple’s period comedy “Dickinson” has cast Finn Jones and Pico Alexander. Jones will star as Samuel Bowles, described as an energetic and magnetic newspaper editor. Alexander will play Henry “Ship” Shipley, a dropout of Amherst College and a boarder with the Dickinsons. Jones is best known for playing Loras Tyrell during most [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content