David Zaslav to Meet with CNN D.C. Anchors and Reporters

Discovery Inc CEO David Zaslav speaking on stage

Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for Discovery.

Discovery, Inc. CEO David Zaslav is embarking on a national tour of WarnerMedia offices as he takes the helm of the newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery, and one of his first stops will be CNN’s Washington, D.C. bureau to meet with the cable news network’s anchors and reporters, a CNN insider has confirmed to Mediaite.

The merger, which closed on Friday, was the culmination of a process by which WarnerMedia was spun off from parent company AT&T as part of its efforts to pay off debts and redirect funds to build and expand the 5G network for their cellular service. Some of these corporate moves included WarnerMedia selling TMZ to Fox Entertainment and AT&T selling its DirecTV service to TPG Capital and anime producer CrunchyRoll to Sony.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the newly merged company is projected to have nearly 40,000 employees and more than $50 billion in annual revenue by 2023.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s assets will include WarnerMedia’s HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, and the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. with its iconic logo water tower. Discovery’s offerings include its namesake Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and TLC, and its own streaming service, Discovery+.

On Sunday, The Wrap reported Zaslav’s planned itinerary included visiting the WarnerMedia global headquarters in New York City on Monday, Warner Bros. Atlanta office on Tuesday, WarnerMedia/HBO offices in Culver City, Calif. on Wednesday, and then a town hall at the WarnerMedia offices in Burbank.

A CNN insider told Mediaite on Sunday that Zaslav’s Monday travel will also include an evening meeting with CNN’s anchors and reporters in the nation’s capital, a bureau that includes many of the on-air personalities who comprise a large part of the face of the network.

The CNN website lists among their D.C.-based notable names anchors Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, Pamela Brown, Wolf Blitzer, Brianna Keilar, John King, and Jake Tapper, plus some of the many reporters covering the political beat like Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Chief Washington Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, Politics Reporter and Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza, White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond, Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson, Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly, Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles, Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip, and Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

The source told Mediaite the mood among the D.C. bureau was hopeful that the sit-down with Zaslav would go better than last month’s meeting with former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar.

Kilar’s rocky virtual meeting with CNN’s New York anchors came in the immediate aftermath of the ouster of former CNN head Jeff Zucker and ongoing turmoil surrounding Chris Cuomo’s exit from the network. According a report by the Wall Street Journal, multiple anchors vocally objected to Zucker being pushed out and expressed unhappiness about the possibility that Cuomo might get the severance he was demanding, getting “paid handsomely” despite breaking journalistic standards related to coverage of the troubled end of his brother Andrew Cuomo’s tenure as Governor of New York.

Tapped to take over from Zucker to lead CNN was Chris Licht, a veteran television producer with a resume that included a well-regarded stint with MSNBC’s Morning Joe and most recently at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

On April 5, Kilar confirmed that he was stepping down as the WarnerMedia head, a move that was widely expected to occur before the merger.

“We want to hear that he’s going to let us do our jobs,” the CNN insider told Mediaite when asked about their expectations for the meeting with Zaslav.

Beyond shuffling names around the company organization chart and other merger-related changes, it’s a time of transition and growth for CNN. Streaming service CNN+ is taking its first baby steps amid an increasingly competitive field, with mega players like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple investing staggering sums in their own streaming platforms and original content.

The cable news ratings have long been dominated by Fox News, but CNN has experienced a recent ratings surge driven by their on-the-ground coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Many of the network’s best known names, including Tapper, Jim Sciutto, Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Brianna Keilar, John BermanErin Burnett, Clarissa Ward, and Christiane Amanpour, have reported live from Ukraine. Blitzer and Sara Sidner were among the CNN teams reporting from bordering nations like Poland and Romania that have taken in some of the millions of Ukrainian refugees.

Both those who have reported from Ukraine and their colleagues anchoring CNN’s shows from D.C. and New York have expressed pride in the network’s coverage of the war, a pride that is justified in the eyes of many media observers.

But how their new head honcho Zaslav will captain their cable news ship is a question that remains for CNN employees.

The David Zaslav Honeymoon is Already Over” declared Puck News’ Matthew Belloni last week, detailing some of the challenges awaiting Zaslav as he seeks to navigate several wildly divergent corporate cultures among the divisions in the new entity, make final decisions about how to restructure management, and deal with the whopping roughly $58 billion in debt on their books.

“[I]t’s tough to smash together legacy companies with distinct cultures,” wrote Belloni, adding that he was “betting the inevitable mass layoffs are next,” with analysts estimating that it could more than a decade to pay down that debt.

In Belloni’s assessment, CNN+ seemed like a ripe target for Zaslav to make some moves, with its reported annual budget of $300 million. But the streaming service also might benefit from the merger, he wrote, such as being able to sign up new subscribers by being promoted as an upcharge product bundled with HBO Max.

Last year with the merger looming, Zaslav effusively praised CNN in a call with Wall Street analysts, lauding them as “a news service that has real and meaningful resources globally, news-gathering resources, the biggest and largest group of global journalists of any media company, maybe with the exception of the BBC.”

UPDATE: CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter confirmed that Zaslav would include CNN’s D.C. bureau in his visits this coming week as he “begin[s] the work of integration” of the merged companies.

This article has been updated with additional information.

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2022-04-11 01:57:46