When Jeff Zucker took over at CNN, one of his first orders of business was to push Soledad O'Brien out the door and replace her on the morning newscast.
A year after O'Brien was bumped, things have not been going very well for Jeff Zucker and CNN.
As for O'Brien? Things are going great.
This week, O’Brien celebrated the one-year anniversary of her startup production company, Starfish Media Group. She says she’s as amazed as anyone that she has landed on solid ground after so many years as a soldier in the army of big companies like NBC and CNN.
“A year ago, I wasn’t so sure if we’d even be around to do something like this,” says the whip-smart, burgeoning media mogul.
The NY Daily News writes that since leaving CNN in March 2013, O’Brien, 47, has locked down relationships and deals with a slew of channels. They range from a kickass gig as a correspondent for HBO's "Real Sports" to docs for Al Jazeera America and her old bosses at CNN. Later this week, she’ll replace Alex Trebek as moderator of the National Geographic Bee on the NatGeo channel.
The best part? She owns almost everything viewers will see her on — or produce — going forward. She describes her company’s approach as ranging from long-form documentaries to news segments and things that may exist purely in a digital space.
With so much upheaval across the media landscape, it’s rare to see someone pull off an effort like this. But she is.
O’Brien somehow ended up sharing a private plane with director Spike Lee last week for a flight to Texas. That got her wondering if Lee’s own media empire — with its movies, TV shows, commercials and more — might be close to the model she’s aiming for.
“But that’s a long way off,” says, O’Brien, who’s also teaching a class about education at Harvard, her alma mater.
For now, she’s building on years of experience, utilizing a VIP-packed contacts list and putting the finishing touches on several projects. They include a powerful documentary for CNN about soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with posttraumatic stress disorder.