Billionaire John Malone: CNN Needs ‘Actual Journalists’

Billionaire John Malone: CNN Needs 'Actual Journalists' see in in logo (Getty Images)

By Brian Freeman | Sunday, 21 November 2021 05:24 PM

CNN needs “actual journalists,” billionaire media mogul John Malone told CNBC in an interview in which he explained there is a place for the news channel in the proposed $43 billion combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery.

“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” said Malone, who is longtime chairman of Liberty Media, which is a major shareholder in Discovery. “I do believe good journalism could have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery-TimeWarner’s going to represent.”

Under the deal AT&T announced in May, it will unwind its $85 billion acquisition of TimeWarner, which closed about three years ago, and establish a new and separate media company with Discovery that will bring together AT&T-owned CNN, HBO and the Warner Bros. studio and Discovery’s channels.

The transaction is expected to be closed by the middle of next year.

When asked in the CNBC interview whether CNN would fit into the video streaming ambitions of the merged company, which will be named Warner Bros. Discovery, Malone said “a coward’s way out would be to sell [CNN] or spin it off and then sell it.”

Malone also expressed backing for Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will head the new company and who has stated previously that he is committed to retaining CNN.

Before working for Discovery, Zaslav spent almost 20 years working on several different projects at NBC, including the launch of CNBC and MSNBC, according to CNBC.

Malone said soon after the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger was first announced that he envisions the combined company becoming the No. 3 global streamer behind Netflix and Disney+.

He has emphasized since the announcement of the deal that Zaslav is the right leader for Warner Bros. Discovery.

“He’s the kinda guy that can deliver a Scripps merger or a TimeWarner deal. Without the Scripps deal, Discovery would really be in the third tier today,” Malone said, referring to Discovery’s nearly $12 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive, which was completed three years ago. That deal brought then-Scripps owned HGTV, Travel Channel and Food Network under the Discovery umbrella.

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