Fresh off delivering a first-quarter earnings report, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav stopped by CNBC’s Squawk Box studios, where the topic of CNN and, in particular, the upcoming town hall with former President Donald Trump came up.
When Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen mentioned that Trump would be on CNN, Zaslav responded, “He should be.”
The CEO defended the network and its direction, saying it “has the largest group of journalists in the world” and noted that it has over 86 people on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and Russia amid the Russia-Ukraine war.
Zaslav pivoted back to politics when asked about the opportunities CNN could take advantage of, saying, “We are a divided government. Right? We need to hear both voices. That’s what you see. Republicans are on the air on CNN; Democrats are on the air. All voices should be heard.”
Toward the end of the interview, Zaslav reiterated CNN’s position in hosting the Trump town hall, saying, “He is the front runner, he has to be on our network. We are happy he is on our network.”
During the interview, Zaslav was also quizzed on CNN’s stance on being a middle-of-the-road network. The CEO noted that there are a number of advocacy networks, but CNN’s focus was on facts, great journalism and representing both sides of the political spectrum when it covers politics.
Squawk Box co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin asked Zaslav whether CNN’s neutral position can be successful in the ratings and fundamentally be good for business.
Zaslav didn’t directly answer the question, but he pointed out the upcoming political season should benefit the network, adding, “This is a new CNN.”
Other issues also discussed during the interview include the upcoming Gayle King and Charles Barkley primetime show, King Charles; the performance of CNN’s website; the network’s rebrand; and whether former CNN president Jeff Zucker would have allowed the Trump town hall to take place.
Zaslav also deftly eluded answering a question about Fox News, saying, “Our focus is to do a great network. We gotta do what we do best!”
Earlier in the morning, Zaslav took part in WBD’s earnings call, where he indicated that the company is “actively working” on adding news and sports to its relaunched streaming service, Max, debuting later this month.
Adding news to Max fills the streaming news void WBD left behind after the newly installed WBD regime canceled CNN+ in April of 2022.
Watch Zaslav’s interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box here.
“Former President Trump is going to be on CNN,” says @JoeSquawk.
“He should be,” says $WBD CEO David Zaslav. “We’re in divided government. All voices should be heard on #CNN. That’s what you see. Republicans and Democrats are on the air. This is a new CNN.” pic.twitter.com/9fQ67Mm0bt
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) May 5, 2023