Pasadena, Calif. -- CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker took a jab at Fox News Channel chairman Roger Ailes, who was recently quoted as saying CNN had “thrown in the towel” on news coverage, saying the criticism is “silly," adding that Ailes is trying to deflect attention from his soon-to-be-released unauthorized biography.
"…We happen to be in the news business, unlike other fair and balanced networks,” Zucker said Friday during the CNN portion of the TCA winter press tour here in defense of CNN's coverage. “The Republican party is running out of News Corp. headquarters being masqueraded as a cable channel.”
A Fox spokesperson said that Zucker's remarks appeared to be "nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from CNN's dismal ratings."
Zucker also downplayed rumors of departing Tonight Show host Jay Leno joining the company, adding that late-night programming is “not a priority for us at this time.”
He also squashed rumors about NBC News correspondent Ann Curry joining CNN. “Ann is a terrific talent and I have along relationship with her,” he said. “She’s under contract with NBC and not available at this time.”
Zucker said CNN will continue to offer news content in primetime, but it will add more entertainment-based programming as it looks to broaden the news network’s audience. The network will not abandon its news-based lineup during primetime, but said that he’s not opposed to putting documentary movies and specials in an effort to increase viewership for the network.
“We want to remain essential in breaking news,” Zucker said. “At the same time it’s not a growing niche and there are many places to get [news] information,” he said.
He pointed to the diminished ratings of cable news networks – only HLN was up year to year in primetime in 2013 – as evidence that the category is struggling.
“That’s not a great story for cable news and we’re conscious of that," he said.
Zucker did, however, add that he is "very comfortable" with where Crossfire is in the ratings, noting that the relaunched news program is outperforming the network's daily average audience.