CNN’s Soledad O’Brien On Her Entrepreneurial TV Future

Source: Diane Brady /  Bloomberg

I never really hesitated about going to Starting Point[which premiered on Jan. 2, 2012]. I thought there was an opportunity to get beyond the platitudes of “Yes, Medicare! No, Medicare!” and actually look at the Congressional Budget Office report. When I left American Morning in 2007, I’d focused on doing documentaries. But I thought Starting Point was a great opportunity to be involved in the zeitgeist.

The show was able to grow, but it takes time. I don’t know that an aggressive interview style was not good for our morning show, which is what some people said. It takes time to build an audience. When Jeff Zucker [CNN’s (TWX) new president, above] started last month, he had a different vision. He was coming in to make changes across the board that, frankly, CNN really needs. Part of that vision was that I wouldn’t be on the morning show. Once I knew what he wanted, I focused on how I could do what I enjoy most.

We struck an unusual deal. I’ll get to leave CNN with my catalog and documentaries. We were able to create a brand at CNN—Black in America—that I now own. I can take that brand and extend it in any way I want. You have Netflix (NFLX) and all these channels that are looking for interesting and different ways to tell stories. To have ownership of Black in America and Latino in America is hugely important.

I absolutely pushed for that—it was critical to me. I’m so affiliated with this brand that there wasn’t a real struggle. I don’t just own it, but I can now take it across other platforms.

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