CNN Chief Jeff Zucker Says U.S. Regulators Should Look Into Where Majority of Digital Ad Revenue Goes

News network has had limited success with recent digital offerings

CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker spoke at Mobile World Congress today in Barcelona.
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BARCELONA, Spain—CNN President Jeff Zucker suggested U.S. regulators should consider looking into Facebook and Google to determine whether the two companies have a monopoly or duopoloy on the monetization of internet content.

The remarks came during an on-stage interview on Monday at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, where Zucker was asked about the recent bundling of media companies with larger telecoms and networks. He cited Disney’s proposed $52.4 billion acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox, as well as AT&T’s bid for CNN parent company Time Warner, which will go before a judge next month in an antitrust trial.

“The fact is nobody for some reason is looking at the monopolies that are Google and Facebook, and that’s where the government should be looking and helping to make sure that everyone else survives,” Zucker said. “I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the seriousness and growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

CNN is just one of many media companies to criticize Facebook and Google in recent weeks. News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch suggested Facebook and Google consider “a different route” for helping publishers stay afloat.

“If Facebook wants to recognize ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies,” Murdoch said.

CNN has invested millions into CNN Digital with varied success. In December, it announced plans to end its Snapchat-only channel, and in January confirmed it had shut down Beme, the mobile video app create by YouTuber Casey Neistat. CNN cut 50 staffers last month, and last week shifted some duties of CNN Digital chief Andrew Morse.

Zucker said monetizing digital and mobile content has been more difficult than he expected, adding that the Facebook-Google duopoly receive a majority of every new digital dollar.

“I think we need help for the advertising world and technology world to monetize digital content,” he said. “Otherwise, good journalism will go away, and that will be bad for the United States, and that will be bad for those that are trying to tell the world about what is happening in Syria today. We need good journalism, and we need to support that.”

Despite the obstacles, Zucker said CNN has been protected from the cord-cutting phenomenon that has hurt other networks, largely because of the way people consume live video such as news and sports. He also pointed out that CNN’s digital audience is younger than its TV viewership, with an average age of 44 for digital and 37 for mobile. CNN reaches.

“Our strategy is to tell the truth, and we think there’s a good business in that,” he said.

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