Eight days after CNN aired the live town hall featuring former President Donald Trump, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav indirectly addressed the heavily criticized event while speaking at the SVB MoffettNathanson’s Inaugural Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in New York on Thursday.
According Variety’s Todd Spangler, Zaslav said that CNN is moving away from being “an advocacy network” and moving towards one representing “both sides.” Our view is, there’s advocacy networks on either side. We have the best journalists in the world. We need to show both sides of every issue,” Zaslav said.
The WBD chief executive cited a recent YouGov poll, which saw an 11-point improvement in U.S. viewers’ trust in CNN, to argue that the perception of CNN being “a left-leaning network” is starting to fade away.
“Republicans are back on the air. Republicans weren’t on the air,” he said, adding that during the McCarthy hearings from earlier this year, “for those four days, we had 75 Republicans on the air, 41 went on us before they went on Fox [News].”
Zaslav also provided cover for CNN CEO Chris Licht, saying Licht “is working really hard” to rebuild the brand, while also noting the upcoming launch of the new 9 p.m. ET show anchored by Kaitlan Collins. Zaslav acknowledged CNN’s low Nielsen ratings but pointed out that the majority of CNN’s revenues came from affiliate fees more so than from advertising and referenced CNN’s digital audience reach of 150 million.
“It’s going to take some time. But advertisers are interested in CNN again, he said. Adding, “They don’t want to be part of an advocacy network. We’ve had meeting after meeting, and they say, ‘We are with you.'”
The aftermath from the town hall has caused some headaches for Licht. On Wednesday, CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour became the first on-air personality to disclose her displeasure publicly over the network hosting the live event.
Amanpour said that earlier in the week, she met with the CNN chief and that they “had a very robust exchange of views” concerning the town hall, adding that Licht stood by his decision to hold the town hall but welcomed Amanpour’s point of view.
During a Squawk Box interview on CNBC in early May, Zaslav didn’t object to Trump’s appearance on CNN, saying “He is the front runner, he has to be on our network. We are happy he is on our network.”