Jay Leno 'not in the cards' for CNN right now, network head Jeff Zucker says

jeff-zucker-cnn-jay-leno-gi.jpgCNN president Jeff Zucker jokes that according to various news reports, "anybody I've ever known" is supposedly coming to work with him again.

The former head of NBC fielded successive questions Friday (Jan. 10) at the TCA winter press tour about the prospects of Jay Leno, who's retiring from "The Tonight Show" in a few weeks, and Ann Curry -- whose status at NBC News remains unclear -- joining CNN.

"I know there's been a lot of talk about CNN looking for late-night programming, a late-night comedy show," Zucker says. "That's really not a priority for us at this time. We have some other things I'd like to concentrate on first. ...

"Obviously I have a long relationship with Jay, I think he's a terrific talent, but that's just not where our priorities are or where we're going anytime soon."

As for Curry, Zucker also calls her "a terrific talent." But "she's under contract at NBC and she's not available at this time, despite what I know has been postulated and is out there. If she were to become available, she's someone I would certainly look at, but she's not available at this time."

Zucker also discussed CNN's addition of documentaries and original series like "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" and the upcoming "Death Row Stories" and "The '60s." While he says CNN will "never, ever" abandon its core mission of covering breaking news, he sees the new programming as a way to remain relevant in the face of declining ratings across cable news.

"Frankly, we think in this day and age, that's really what we need to do to continue to remain both essential and relevant," Zucker says.

He also returned a shot Fox News chairman Roger Ailes took at CNN. In an interview published earlier this week (and conducted in December), Ailes said CNN has "throw[n] in the towel" on breaking news coverage.

"Look, I think that criticism is obviously meant to deflect your attention from the book this week" -- "The Loudest Voice in the Room," a biography of Ailes -- "and is silly -- as evidenced by the fact that we happen to be in the news business as opposed to some other 'fair and balanced' networks. So I think you know what's going on there."
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