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CNN boss Jeff Zucker: “I don’t take Vice seriously”

CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker. (Photo: The Wharton School)
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker. (Photo: The Wharton School)

The top executive at the Cable News Channel (CNN) seems unfazed by the growing popularity of online news startup Vice News, and even less concerned at criticism lobbed at him and his network by the startup’s co-founder.

In a new profile published Sunday by New York Magazine, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker said he has a hard time considering Vice News to be a full-fledged competitor because their video product is nowhere near the scale of CNN’s.

“I don’t take Vice seriously,” Zucker said. “They produce 15 hours of television…we’re going to do that between now and tonight.”

Zucker was responding to criticism from Vice News co-founder Shane Smith that was published by the New York Daily News.

“CNN is a disaster,” Smith said in March. “It’s spiraling into shit. They are trying to young it down, but everything they do is a fucking disaster. But what’s bad for CNN is good for me.”

Vice News had a content sharing agreement with CNN in which Vice-produced stories would appear on CNN’s digital platforms. The news startup was also said to have entered talks with Time Warner to take over CNN’s entertainment sister-channel HLN, presumably to launch a new 24-hour news and information channel under the Vice brand.

Those talks fizzled out this summer, though speculation is that Vice will land a television deal elsewhere (the company has produced documentaries for HBO; both HBO and CNN are owned by Time Warner).

Zucker and Smith could not be more different: While Zucker focuses wholeheartedly on the television product, Smith is platform agnostic — Vice News frequently uses third-party Internet tools to stream live reports from news hotzones, such as the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine, the World Cup protests in Brazil and civil demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.

While Vice reporters were streaming live from their iPhones in Ferguson two months ago, Zucker contemplated whether his network should air a documentary about life in the 1960s or cover the protests in Ferguson live.

Zucker chose the documentary — because, ratings.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).