CNN's Zucker: Regulators should focus on Google, Facebook 'monopolies'

CNN's Zucker: Regulators should focus on Google, Facebook 'monopolies'
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CNN President Jeff Zucker on Monday called on regulators to focus on the powerful influence Silicon Valley heavyweights Google and Facebook exercise in an era when news organizations are allocating more money and resources to digital operations.

“Everyone is looking at whether these combinations of AT&T and Time Warner or Fox and Disney pass government approval and muster," Zucker said in his keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

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"The fact is nobody, for some reason, is looking at these monopolies that are Google and Facebook,” Zucker noted. “That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) last November sued to block AT&T's $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, CNN's parent company, arguing that the telecom giant would "use its control of Time Warner's popular programming as a weapon to harm competition." The DOJ added that it "would result in fewer innovative offerings and higher bills for American families." 

According to digital market research company eMarketer, however, "Google and Facebook combined will account for more than 65% of US digital ad revenues in 2018."

Zucker on Monday also urged advertisers and technology companies to help explore innovative ways to monetize news content on mobile devices, warning that "good journalism will go away" if new approaches can't be found.

“In a Google and Facebook world, monetization of digital and mobile continues to be more difficult than we would have expected or liked,” Zucker said. 

“I think we need help from the advertising world and from the technology world to find new ways to monetize digital content, otherwise good journalism will go away."

Zucker has dedicated significant resources to CNN's digital offerings since take over at the network in 2013.

The 52-year-old former "Today" show executive producer noted that the average CNN viewer is 59, but the average age of mobile viewers is 37.

CNN led its competition in multiplatform visitors with 122 million in January, its 20th straight month at the top. Yahoo News was second at 98 million unique visitors and The New York Times brand got third, with 92 million, according to comScore.

Cord-cutting in the face of expensive cable packages and increased and improved streaming options have prompted many news outlets to commit more focus to the digital side of the business as millennials, especially, have shown an inclination for absorbing content online.