CNN Worldwide continues to weather upheaval a week after the sudden resignation of President Jeff Zucker, whose relationship with a senior executive was discovered during an investigation that had resulted in the previous firing of star anchor Chris Cuomo.
But CNN will soon gain at least a brief respite from the bad news. By the end of March, the network will launch its star-studded streaming service CNN+, which features shows led by former Fox News host Chris Wallace and actress Eva Longoria.
But the new venture may not survive for long, warns Katie Couric, the former host of “Today” and “CBS Evening News.”
In a new interview, taped on Jan. 11 before Zucker’s resignation, Couric voiced skepticism about the rise of news-driven streaming services like CNN+, saying they may struggle to win subscribers or even survive in the already-crowded media business.
“At what point is it content overload?” she tells Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer. “There is just so much to choose from.”
“Will the cream still rise to the top? Probably,” she says. “But will it be enough to sustain some of these newer business models? I’m not sure.”
Couric, who released a memoir in October entitled, “Going There,” worked with Zucker at NBC when he served as executive producer on “Today” in the mid-2000s.
CNN is considering a fee of $5.99 per month for its steaming service, Bloomberg reported. The price would match that of Fox Nation, a streaming channel launched by cable rival Fox News in November 2018.
Noting the highly competitive media marketplace, Couric questioned whether stars like Wallace will draw a broad audience of subscribers.
“Will they want to see Chris Wallace doing interviews? I’m not sure, maybe hardcore Chris Wallace fans,” she says.
“But it seems to me that there is so much news — it’s so ubiquitous now — that they’re going to have to provide something that is really unique,” she adds.
CNN continues to grapple with the sudden departure of Zucker. On Monday, several on-air hosts pushed WarnerMedia Chief Executive Jason Kilar to provide details about what led to the resignation, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Last week, Couric released a statement saying the resignation “surprised” her and pointing out that she had also worked with Zucker’s romantic partner, senior CNN executive Allison Gollust, at NBC.
“I’ve wondered about the nature of their relationship,” Couric said in the statement. “It seems their colleagues and the media at large turned a blind eye to inappropriate behavior.”
In her memoir, Couric recounts Zucker making a concerted effort to hire Gollust for the “Today” staff.
“At a certain point Jeff made a huge push to bring on Allison Gollust…they were joined at the hip,” Couric writes. “I had to wonder why Jeff was angling so hard to bring Allison on board.”
Zucker is not the only high-profile former colleague of Couric’s who has lost his job over alleged sexual misconduct. For nine years, she co-hosted “Today” with Matt Lauer, who was fired in 2017 due to inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Couric said that over her career she noticed how the media business attracted and enabled sexual misconduct.
“It’s not exactly a low-key or low-profile industry,” she says. “So I think probably the ego-level of men in television in general and media probably fed into certain behavior for many, many years.”
“For this kind of behavior, I think it was not only tolerated but in some cases encouraged,” she adds.
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