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Can Jeff Zucker Navigate Streaming Content Wars While Sparring with President Trump?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:03 PM
Rasa Sarwari
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:03 PM

Jeff Zucker, the current president of CNN, is now the frontrunner to become the chief executive of WarnerMedia. WarnerMedia is owned by AT&T and houses HBO, CNN, Warner Bros., and Turner Broadcasting. AT&T acquired the companies in 2018 during a $102 billion  takeover of Time Warner, which it renamed WarnerMedia.

Bloomberg at&t
Revenue streams for AT&T | Source: Bloomberg 

HBO Max to Rival Netflix, Apple TV+ and Disney+

AT&T plans to launch its streaming TV subscription service HBO Max Oct. 29. HBO Max is set to be a crucial pillar of AT&T’s restructuring; but subscribers could be charged more than other streaming services at up to $17 per month  compared to Netflix’s most popular plan of $12.99 per month, Disney+’s $6.99 per month, and Apple+’s $ $4.99 per month.

To offset their higher-than-average subscription costs, HBO Max is trying to sink its teeth into the online video streaming market by introducing a lineup of heavyweight titles, including Game of Thrones, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and Top Gear.

Though the idea of Zucker being appointed to head of WarnerMedia remains speculation, his reputation may spell trouble for other streaming giants. His meteoric rise through the industry has made him known for his ambition, leadership, and diligence. Since taking the mantle of CNN’s president in 2012, Zucker has done exceedingly well to strengthen the company’s online presence, so much so that CNN has become the self-proclaimed No. 1  global digital news agency. Also, under his management, CNN has reportedly doubled  its profits.

Could the Zucker-Trump Rivalry Spell Trouble for HBO Max?

Zucker’s tenure as president of CNN has made him enemies. His archrival is President Trump, who has called on Zucker to be fired and has repeatedly denounced CNN as “fake news.”

Trump has been quite adamant about his disdain for Zucker, and with current calls for impeachment rising, the president might find it convenient to take shots at CNN and by association Zucker, who is known to be Trump’s punching bag.

According to NBC, insiders  have voiced concerns that Zucker’s appointment may make AT&T a “bigger target for the administration.” This could bring headwinds for HBO Max, as it is set to compete in a highly contested market, as Apple+ and Disney+ both launch in November.

Despite the Zucker-Trump rivalry, AT&T needs a steadfast and effective leader to guide HBO Max if it wants to be able to compete with other rivals who are offering lower prices or are more established. For this reason, NBC’s sources  have stated that Zucker might be worth the risk.