MEDIA
09/17/2015 01:20 am ET

CNN President Says Wall-To-Wall Debate Coverage Fits 'All-In' Strategy

"It happened to be on CNN, but it was the big story of the week."
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- CNN went wall-to-wall with Republican debate coverage in the days leading up to Wednesday night's big event, complete with an on-screen countdown clock and seemingly endless reporting and analysis.

CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker said shortly after his workers wrapped up the marathon five hours of debate that they approached it similar to other major news events. 

“We go all-in when there’s a big story," Zucker said in an interview from the press filing center at the Reagan Library. 

Since Zucker took the helm in late 2012, the network has been known to go all-in on specific stories, most notably missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

"This was the big story of the week. It happened to be on CNN, but it was the big story of the week," Zucker said. "We approached it like that. We did go all-in for the last 48 hours, I would say. But it’s really consistent with the way we approached major news events the last 2 1/2 years."

While the national media focused heavily on Donald Trump's candidacy the past three months, CNN has devoted the most attention to the Republican frontrunner among cable networks. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Trump had been the subject of 2,159 CNN reports since he declared his candidacy three months ago. 

Zucker suggested he's comfortable with the amount of attention Trump has received on the network.

“He has been the story in -- certainly on the Republican side -- for the last three months," Zucker said. "I think anyone who doesn’t see that, or argues with that, is just wrong. I think the frontrunner always merits the most amount of attention. That’s a little bit like asking why The New York Times has had more stories about Hillary than anyone else."

It's not yet clear how many Americans tuned in Wednesday night, but Zucker said he didn't expect CNN's debate to top the record-setting 24 million who watched Fox News' debate last month, the first of the Republican primary cycle. 

"We have no expectation of that," Zucker said, when asked if CNN might draw more than 24 million viewers. "None. Absolutely none."

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