Zucker: CNN Brand Not Tarnished By President Trump

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CNN CEO Jeff Zucker isn't concerned about how President Donald Trump's criticism is impacting the cable news behemoth -- in fact, it seems like his attacks are only helping to fuel ratings.

CNN commissioned, what Mr. Zucker called its largest-ever brand study to assess if the White House was in fact tarnishing the CNN brand. "We are still incredibly trusted," Mr. Zucker told press on Thursday during a lunch hosted by CNN parent Turner.

It also hasn't spooked advertisers, with Turner President David Levy noting that CNN is having a record quarter of ad sales.

President Trump "put out a tweet that said CNN is unwatchable, but the reason he knows that is because he is watching," Mr. Zucker said.

Mr. Zucker had anticipated there would be a leveling off of ratings following the election. But so far, that hasn't been the case, at CNN or elsewhere in cable news.

Comparing the first seven weeks of 2017 to the same period last year, which included the Iowa Caucus and several primaries, cable news viewership is up 36% and 39% in the core 25-to-54 demo, Mr. Zucker said.

While the overarching belief three years ago was cable news was on its death bed, Mr. Zucker said it is more relevant than ever and "at the center of what's going on."

An important part of that is the network's digital strategy, with Mr. Zucker predicting in five years CNN digital will generate $1 billion in revenue.

Mr. Zucker also addressed the unofficial ban the White House has imposed on Jake Tapper's "State of the Union," saying "It has not hurt CNN in any way."

And as it relates to having Kellyanne Conway appear on-air, Mr. Zucker said they will do so when it seems relevant.

The political climate isn't only impacting CNN. At Turner's entertainment channels like TBS and TNT, Mr. Levy said they are making decisions on which shows to develop based on the environment. He added that they are seeing more period shows being pitched that deal with many of the current complications.

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