Reps at Disney could not be reached for comment, but multiple sources close to Zucker confirmed to Deadline that he has had conversations for the top job at the sports giant.
Following Skipper’s shocking December 18 announcement that he was resigning to deal with a substance abuse problem, George Bodenheimer — ESPN’s president from 1998-2011 and its executive chairman until May 2014 — took over as the acting chairman of the company for 90 days to help Iger find Skipper’s replacement.
There have been internal and external candidates rumored to be candidates for the job in the past month including ESPN EVPs Connor Schell and Justin Connolly, and Consumer Products and Interactive Media Chairman James Pitaro, who is well regarded internally and previously oversaw the development of Yahoo Sports.
Outside candidates that have been talked about include Turner Broadcasting president David Levy.
Zucker, whose current CNN contract I hear is up at the end of the year, is an intriguing proposition. He was able to reverse CNN’s linear ratings declines even before the Donald Trump-fueled political coverage ratings bonanza. He also successfully built the cable news network’s digital brand, overseeing a big online expansion.
Those are things Disney wants to see ESPN achieve. The network’s subscriber losses have been dragging down Disney’s stock price, even though prime time viewership is up. Disney also has been looking to better monetize ESPN and its programming in a multi-platform universe, including via a recently announced ESPN-branded OTT service.