Jeff Zucker

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Jeff Zucker
Jeff Zucker - David Shankbone 2010.jpg
Zucker at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
Born Jeffrey Zucker
(1965-04-09) April 9, 1965 (age 49)[citation needed]
Homestead, Florida, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University (BA)
Occupation President of CNN Worldwide
Years active 1986–Present
Employer CNN Worldwide
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Caryn Nathanson (m. 1996)
Children 4

Jeffrey Adam "Jeff" Zucker[1] (born April 9, 1965)[citation needed] is the current president of CNN Worldwide. He previously served as the President and CEO of NBC Universal.[2] Zucker has also served as an Executive in Residence at Columbia Business School.[3] In November 2012, Zucker was picked to take over as the President of CNN in January 2013.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Zucker was born into a Jewish upper-middle class family[5][6][7] in Homestead, Florida, near Miami.[8] His father, Matthew, was a cardiologist, and his mother, Arlene, was a school teacher.[1] He had a religious upbringing and was bar mitzvahed and confirmed at Temple Israel, a reform synagogue in South Florida.[6] He has a younger sister, Pam.[citation needed]

He was a captain of the North Miami Senior High School tennis team,[8] editor of the school paper, and a teenage freelance reporter ("stringer") for The Miami Herald.[9] The 5-foot-6-inch (1.68 m) Zucker also was president of his sophomore, junior, and senior classes,[10] running on the slogan: "The little man with the big ideas."[11] He graduated from North Miami Senior High School in 1982.[8] Before college, he took part in Northwestern University's National High School Institute program for journalism.[9]

Zucker went on to Harvard University. He was President of the school newspaper, The Harvard Crimson during his senior year and as such he encouraged the decades-old prank rivalry with the Harvard Lampoon, headed by future NBC colleague Conan O'Brien.[12] Zucker studied abroad in Madrid in 1983 through IES Abroad and graduated Harvard in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in American history.[citation needed]

In 1996, Zucker married Caryn Stephanie Nathanson, then a supervisor for Saturday Night Live,[1] with whom he has four children.[13] His son, Andrew Zucker, briefly served on the advisory board of Democratic politician Cory Booker's startup tech firm.[14]

Diagnosed at age 31 with colon cancer, Zucker underwent surgery and chemotherapy.[11] As of 2005 he was a member of Temple Emanu-El in New York City.[6]

Career at NBC[edit]


When he was not admitted to Harvard Law School, he was hired by NBC in 1986 to research information for its coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics.[15]

Producer of Today Show[edit]

In 1989, he was a field producer for Today, and at 26 he became its executive producer in 1992.[16] He introduced the program's trademark outdoor rock concert series and was in charge as Today moved to the "window on the world" Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza in 1994.

President of NBC Entertainment[edit]

In 2000, he was named NBC Entertainment's president.[17] A 2004 Businessweek Profile stated that "During that time he oversaw NBC's entire entertainment schedule. He kept the network ahead of the pack by airing the gross out show Fear Factor, negotiating for the cast of the hit series Friends to take the series up to a tenth season, and signing Donald Trump for the reality show The Apprentice. The Zucker era produced a spike in operating earnings for NBC, from $532 million the year he took over to $870 million in 2003."[11]

Zucker introduced Las Vegas, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Scrubs. He originated the idea of airing "Supersized" (longer than the standard 30 minute slot) episodes of NBC's comedies and aggressively programming in the summer months as cable networks began to draw away viewers with original programming from the network's rerun-filled summer slate. Bravo changed its programming direction towards popularity gaining reality television, while the newly acquired Spanish network Telemundo was positioned to be more competitive with leading network Univision."[citation needed]

President of NBC Entertainment's News & Cable Group[edit]

In December 2003, Zucker became president of NBC's Entertainment, News & Cable Group as well.[citation needed]

President of NBC Television Group[edit]

Following the merger with French media empire Vivendi Universal, he became president of its Television Group in May 2004. During Zucker's tenure, NBC slid from first place to fourth place in the ratings. Shows that Zucker championed such as Father of the Pride and the Friends spinoff Joey were considered failures.[18]

Chief Executive Officer of NBC[edit]

On December 15, 2005, Zucker was promoted by NBC to Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal Television Group behind Robert Charles Wright, vice chairman of General Electric and chairman & CEO of NBC Universal.[19] Zucker was responsible for all programming across the company’s television properties, including network, news, cable, and Sports and Olympics. His responsibilities also included the company’s studio operations and global distribution efforts.[citation needed]

President & CEO of NBC Universal[edit]

On February 6, 2007 Zucker became president & CEO of NBC Universal.

In 2010, in response to a public controversy over the network's reported rescheduling of late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, Los Angeles Times reporters Meg James and Matea Gold declared that Zucker's tenure had led to "a spectacular fall by the country's premier television network" and dubbed the intra-network feud and subsequent public relations fallout "one of the biggest debacles in television history".[20] Under Zucker NBC fell from being the number one rated network to the lowest rated of the four broadcast networks and was occasionally being beaten in the ratings by programming on some of the more popular cable channels.

Days later, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that in Hollywood “there has been a single topic of discussion: How does Jeff Zucker keep rising and rising while the fortunes of NBC keep falling and falling? ...many in the Hollywood community have always regarded him as ...a network Napoleon who never bothered to learn about developing shows and managing talent." She explained that Zucker "is a master at managing up with bosses and calculating cost-per-hour benefits, but even though he made money on cable shows, he could not program the network to save his life."[21]

Dowd also reported that an unnamed "honcho at another network" stated that "Zucker is a case study in the most destructive media executive ever to exist... You’d have to tell me who else has taken a once-great network and literally destroyed it."[21]

On June 2, 2010, the New York Post reported that Zucker would be paid between $30 million and $40 million to leave NBC Universal shortly after Comcast completes its 51 percent acquisition in the company.[22]

Katie producer[edit]

Zucker worked with with fellow NBC alum, former Today host Katie Couric, producing her daytime talk show for Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Katie.[23][24] However, Zucker left the show to be the president of CNN Worldwide.[25]

President of CNN Worldwide[edit]

On November 29, 2012, CNN announced the appointment of Zucker as president of CNN Worldwide starting January 1, 2013. His tenure as CNN president has been less than successful. By January 2014, CNN's ratings had plunged to a 20-year low, with an average of 78,000 viewers across the whole day and 98,000 viewers in prime time.[26] Overall, 2013 was CNN's second-lowest year ever among the 25 to 54 age viewing demographic.[27]

In an interview published on December 3, 2013, Zucker explained the changes he intends to employ to CNN's programming. Zucker said that his intent is to refashion CNN's programming to feature "more shows and less newscasts." In an effort to attract viewers of cable channels like The Discovery Channel and A&E he wants CNN to publish more documentary like programming that provides viewers with what he called a unique "attitude and a take."[28] Zucker has been highly outspoken about his contempt for both the Fox News Channel and the Republican Party, having said, "the Republican Party is being run out of News Corp. headquarters, masquerading as a cable channel."[29]


  1. ^ a b c "WEDDINGS;Jeffrey Zucker and Caryn Nathanson". The New York Times (New York ed.). June 2, 1996. p. 47. Retrieved June 4, 2009.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  2. ^ Carter, Bill (September 24, 2010). "Zucker Announces Departure From NBC". NYT. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Jeff Zucker Named Executive in Residence". Columbia Business School Newsroom. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Shapiro, Rebecca (29 November 2012). "Jeff Zucker CNN President: Network Officially Hires Former NBC Universal Chief". the Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times: "How Jewish is Hollywood? A poll finds more Americans disagree with the statement that 'Jews control Hollywood.' But here's one Jew who doesn't" By Joel Stein December 19, 2008
  6. ^ a b c "Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish" By Abigail Pogrebi
  7. ^ The Guardian: "Why it's still great to be Jewish in Hollywood" by Lisa Marks December 24, 2008
  8. ^ a b c "Pioneer Newsletter January/February 2005". The Greater North Miami Historical Society. January–February 2005. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Zhou, Li S. (May 25, 2011). "Jeff Zucker". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  10. ^ Farhi, Paul (April 9, 2013). "Jeff Zucker is remaking CNN. Are viewers tuning in?". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c Grove, Ronald (September 27, 2004). "Jeff Zucker: Life Without Friends". BusinessWeek. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  12. ^ Finke, Nikki. "NO JOKE: Jeff Zucker Had Conan Arrested –". Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  13. ^ Carter, Bill (September 24, 2010). "NYT article, Zucker quote as saying he has 4 children. Retrieved Sep 25, 2010". Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  14. ^ Primack, Dan (August 7, 2013). "CNN boss' son quits Cory Booker's startup". CNN Money. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Bio of Jeff Zucker from NBC Universal
  16. ^ Carter, Bill (December 3, 1991). "NBC Names Executive Producer of 'Today'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  17. ^ Carter, Bill (December 25, 2000). "Network Heat Gets Even Hotter; At NBC, an Executive Moves From News to Entertainment". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Now Jeff Zucker Must Prove Himself Yet Again". February 19, 2007. Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  19. ^ Levine, Greg (December 15, 2005). "Zucker Named NBC CEO; CBS Tops Fox NFL Pre-Game". Forbes. 
  20. ^ James, Meg; Gold, Matea (January 9, 2010). "How Zucker's Leno quick fix got NBC into a quagmire". Retrieved May 14, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b Dowd, Maureen (January 12, 2010). "The Biggest Loser". New York Times. Retrieved January 21, 2010. 
  22. ^ Atkinson, Claire (June 2, 2010). "NBC boss eyes $30M+ exit deal from Comcast". New York Post. Retrieved June 2, 2010. 
  23. ^ Alex Ben Block (23 January 2012). "Katie Couric and Jeff Zucker: New Talk Show Isn't Regis or Oprah". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Guthrie, Marisa (3 June 2011). "Katie Couric's New Talk Show Deal Likely to Be Announced Monday". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 June 2011. 
  25. ^ Nellie Andreeva (17 October 2012). "Katie Couric’s Syndicated Talk Show Seeks Executive Producer As Jeff Zucker Eyes Exit". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  26. ^ "CNN lays off more than 40 journalists". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  27. ^ "It's Been A Year Since Jeff Zucker Took Over At CNN — And Ratings Have Plunged To 20-Year Lows". Business Insider. January 22, 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  28. ^ "CNN’s Jeff Zucker Reveals Plans to Change from News Network into Place with ‘Attitude’". December 3, 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  29. ^ "CNN’s Jeff Zucker Fires Back at Fox News’ Roger Ailes". Variety. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Garth Ancier
President, NBC Entertainment
Succeeded by
Kevin Reilly
Preceded by
position created
President, NBC Universal Television Group
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bob Wright
Succeeded by
Steve Burke
Preceded by
Jim Walton
President, CNN Worldwide
Succeeded by