Axios Closer

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February 02, 2022

Breaking news: Tomorrow is Thursday.

🚨 Situational awareness: Meta shares fell more than 23% after hours after the company reported revenue and earnings per share below consensus.

Today's newsletter, edited by Pete Gannon, is 692 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.9%.

  • Biggest gainer? Alphabet (+7.5%) on strong results and a 20-to-1 stock split.
  • Biggest decliner? PayPal (-24.6%) on disappointing guidance.

1 big thing: CNN's next turn

Illustration of a television in a binocular view finder
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

CNN president Jeff Zucker resigned today — just months before the oldest 24-hour news network is set to launch its huge bet on streaming, Hope writes.

Why it matters: Zucker had been expected to stay at least until CNN parent WarnerMedia merged with Discovery.

  • He had been a driving force behind CNN+, the network’s renewed push into streaming. 

Catch up quick: After nine years at the helm of CNN, Zucker is out effective immediately after failing to properly disclose a consensual relationship with a longtime senior colleague, Axios’ Sara Fischer reports.

  • The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: Zucker's departure adds to the huge shifts in the media industry as companies try to find their way in a post-Trump, post-COVID and TikTok-driven world.

State of play: Broadcast and cable networks including CBS, Fox, NBC and MSNBC have all made major leadership, programming and product changes over the past year. 

  • This comes as audience engagement has changed dramatically since the Trump administration and COVID dominated news cycles. 

By the numbers: Cable news ratings have been down 36% across prime-time Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, while news app downloads and social media engagement with news have fallen by 33% and 65%, respectively, Axios recently reported

What they’re saying: “What we’re building at CNN+ is not a side hustle,” CNN chief digital officer Andrew Morse told the New York Times just last week.

What to watch: WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar announced three executives — Michael Bass, head of U.S. programming; Amy Entelis, head of talent and content development; and Ken Jautz, a longtime exec at the company — to co-lead the network in the interim.

(Disclosure: Hope is a former CNN employee.)

2. Charted: Half of employers mandating vaccines

Data: Mercer; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate is history, but about half of U.S. employers are proceeding with one anyway, Nathan writes.

By the numbers: Nearly a quarter of employers are already requiring vaccinations without a testing option despite the Supreme Court scrapping the Biden mandate, according to the Jan. 27 poll by human resources consultancy Mercer.

  • 13% are requiring vaccines or regular testing.
  • Another 8% are requiring vaccines due to federal or state rules that remain in place, while 6% have plans to implement a mandate.

Yes, but: 42% of employers have no plans for a mandate.

3. What's happening

💽 Spotify shares fell more than 15% after hours following the company's warning that it would add fewer new subscribers than expected this quarter. (MarketWatch)

🐋 SeaWorld made an unsolicited offer to buy Ohio-based theme park company Cedar Fair at a reported $3.4 billion valuation. (Axios)

4. Pfizer's rep rebounds

Several syringes with blue tips sit side by side on a wooden table
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine syringes. Photo: Vanessa Leroy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer is the fourth most-admired company in the world on Fortune magazine’s annual list, marking its best-ever performance and its first time since 2006 in the top 50, Nathan writes.

  • It was more admired than Disney, Starbucks and Netflix, trailing only Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

Why it matters: Pfizer has gone from villain to hero in the eyes of many, its image undergoing a rapid transformation as the company draws credit for jointly developing a lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.

  • “The ability to get a vaccine out to the public in record time really gave the pharmaceutical industry a way to rehabilitate a very poor reputation,” says NYC Health Business Leaders CEO Bunny Ellerin.

Yes, but: The poll reflects the opinions of 3,740 executives, directors and securities analysts — not the general public, which still has significant reservations about the drug business.

Go deeper.

5. "Maverick" preps for space

Tom Cruise speaking virtually to astronaut Victor Glover
Tom Cruise and NASA astronaut Victor Glover. Screenshot: NASA Johnson

Tom Cruise is set to be the first Hollywood A-lister to help shoot a movie in space.

  • In preparation, Hope writes, the star has been leaning on astronauts like NASA's Victor Glover.

What they talked about: Health in space was a big part of the conversation that NASA posted to YouTube late last week, reports today.

  • The two also talked about what it smells like in the International Space Station, where Cruise will stay.

It smells like a hospital, if you're wondering.

6. What they're saying

"The momentum is with us, the energy is with us, the workers are excited."
— Chris Smalls told NPR. Smalls is part of a self-organized Amazon worker group on Staten Island that now has enough support for a union election.

ICYMI: Axios just announced our inaugural What’s Next Summit on April 5. Register here to attend virtual livestream sessions and join discussions on trends that will revolutionize our future.