CNN, WarnerMedia announces interim leadership roles after Zucker’s abrupt departure

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After Jeff Zucker’s abrupt departure as both president of CNN and chairman of news and sports, parent WarnerMedia has announced temporary leadership roles.

WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar issued a memo outlining the plans that come as owner AT&T looks to spin off WarnerMedia to Discovery.

In the memo, he announces that Michael Bass, Amy Entelis and Ken Jautz will serve as interim heads for news, giving them key oversight of CNN.

Bass had previously been responsible for CNN’s newsgathering and programming operations and internally was seen as one of Zucker’s closest allies.

Jautz previously headed up CNN’s U.S. operations as well as sister network HLN. Entelis, meanwhile, has helped create much of the network’s original series and documentaries but also has built key relationships with talent.

Lenny Daniels will continue as president of Turner Sports, while Patrick Crumb is staying on as president and head of regional sports networks.

WarnerMedia’s regional sports division, through its parent AT&T, manages four RSNs — SportsNet Pittsburgh, SportsNet Rocky Mountain, SportsNet Southwest and Root Sports Northwest.

Having three “co-interim-presidents” (although that’s not an official title) may seem like a bit of an odd move, given the inevitable power plays and differing priorities that are bound to bloom between the trio, but it also could be a way to put off a decision until the WarnerMedia-Discovery deal goes through.

It also has the distinct impression of being some kind of “test” to see who might end up leading CNN singularly, taking on other roles within Warner Bros. Discovery or leaving the newly formed company.

The future of what CNN and other WarnerMedia properties’ leadership has always been a bit of an open question since the merger was announced. Prior to resigning, Zucker’s own future at the combined company was also unclear.

CBS, meanwhile, is one of the notable media companies to split leadership responsibilities of a key division among more than one person — with Wendy McMahon and Neeraj Khemlani serving as co-presidents of CBS News and Television Stations since May 2021.

The new roles were announced at the same time ViacomCBS announced it would combined the news division, which is responsible for shows such as “CBS Evening News” on network air with the stations the networks owns in major markets across the country (much of the original programming these stations produce is local news, so the blending of the two divisions makes some sense in that regard).