Next: It remains unclear whether DC veterans and repurposed anchors will find a second life anymore. Zucker does have an entire international news organization at his disposal, after all — Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper have been devoting more and more segments to field reporting — and he knows from his past how to balance soft news with the force of NBC News correspondents. Let's just say you might be seeing a lot more magic wall than crotchety old Arkansas political savant.
Mornings: Will They Look Like Today?
Perhaps the biggest chunk of programming time that Zucker is immediately qualified to overhaul is the 7-9 a.m. block. But can the wunderkind executive producer who made the Today show into a money-making machine become the executive who puts CNN back on the early-morning map? If his foray into the upper ranks of NBC are any indication — well, that was mostly a primetime problem. But he's fresh off running Katie Couric's new syndicated show, and this is his bread and butter.
Competition: Morning Joe (MSNBC); Fox & Friends (Fox)
Now: Soledad O'Brien is holding down the morning fort by herself, sharing a table with a revolving carousel of guests. Which can be occasionally more illuminating than the couch antics on Fox or the the pundit hall of fame over at MSNBC, but at least Morning Joe has the (occasionally contentious) banter between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, which can be a nice eye-opener for the smart set. We haven't seen O'Brien joined by a formal co-host (and, no, John Sununu doesn't count) since CNN split up her American Morning show into Early Start and her current gig on Starting Point in 2011. But based on the rumblings since Zucker's appointment, it appears that O'Brien might be too much of a star for a morning pair, which could lead to...
Next: The young pair of the future. Zucker said in a statement today that he's hired away Chris Cuomo from ABC's 20/20 and that Cuomo will "have a major role in a new CNN morning show and across the network, anchoring and reporting on major events." As the former news-desk guy on Good Morning America, he could be a Matt Lauer in Zucker's eyes. Multiple reports suggest that Erin Burnett could revive her AM charm from her pre-CNN days as the friendly face from Wall Street on Morning Joe segments by joining Cuomo and switching over to...
Primetime: Will CNN Be Above the Competition?
The pressure is still on CNN to catch Fox and MSNBC in the ratings race. But maybe they won't keep chasing so much as one-upping. MSNBC caught up to Fox in large part by counter-programming its partisan heroes with lefty versions of its own — Ed Schultz vs. O'Reilly, Maddow vs. Hannity, and so on. But Zucker is a star-maker, not a rating match-maker.
The way Fox and MSNBC got there of course, is well-known at this point: be partisan and counter-program. If CNN isn't pursuing pundits, then they're going to have to rely on what they have to fill in Burnett's spot which is a really well-liked Soledad O'Brien. There have been rumors they're trying (unsuccessfully) to lure Ann Curry away from NBC too—go with either one and you have a host thats, yes, female, but also one that's more respected for her journalism chops than she is for her punditry. And someone that's a lot less polarizing than Piers Morgan.