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Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes declined to talk about the rumors of Jeff Zucker taking over CNN during a discussion at the Business insider Ignition conference Wednesday afternoon, only saying “well, we are going to have an announcement soon.”
He did, however, use the rumor as a jumping off point to launch a staunch defense of CNN and its business, and a preview of what may be coming to the network when the new leadership finally takes over.
“I think a very good example of the current strength of CNN is how really superior the coverage was on election night,” Bewkes said. “Our interest and aspiration for CNN is that it does that kind of authoritative, objective, global perspective and deep analysis coverage on everything, we are aiming to do it every night and across all kinds of subjects.
Our aim for CNN is more about that mission, it is not, as so often reported, just about ratings, it is not even primarily about that,” Bewkes added. “Some nights we will win and some nights we won’t do that.”
While CNN’s financial performance is not broken out from the rest of Turner Broadcasting, Bewkes argued that it is one of the company’s most lucrative brands:
“CNN is very successful financially making over $600 million this year,” Bewkes said “It has been one of the highest earnings growth networks outside of HBO, growing earnings double digits.”
As for the network’s future, Bewkes was, not surprisingly, bullish.
“If you are in the TV business, especially with advertising, you are better off if you can have people stay longer, but that is a balance between serving the mission of CNN [and serving advertisers],” Bewkes said. “Primetime ad revenue for CNN is 10% of the revenue, a wit would say well if you had higher ratings it would be 15, and there is some truth to that, but that is not 100, it is not 90, it is a piece of the puzzle, not the whole thing.
I think it will be one of the fastest growing networks in the country over the next few years,” he added.