Former TV producer Chris Licht, who oversaw a short and chaotic tenure as CNN chairman, is absent from the network.
David Zaslav, chief executive of CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, told staff Wednesday morning that he would meet with Licht and leave immediately.
Licht’s 13-month tenure at CNN was met with controversy after controversy. He got off to a rocky start even before it officially launched when he oversaw the closure of his expensive CNN+ streaming service at the behest of the network’s new owners, who were skeptical of standalone digital products. As a result of cutting many layoffs.
“For various reasons things didn’t work out. It’s a shame,” Zaslav said, according to a recording of his remarks. “It’s really unfortunate, but in the end it’s my fault. And I take full responsibility for it.”
“This task has never been an easy one, especially in times of great turmoil and change,” he continued. “Chris put his heart and soul into this work. Thank you for your love of business.”
Before the permanent leadership took over, Zasraf said he was an interim leadership group of CNN veterans Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley, and Eric Schering, and newly appointed chief operating officer David Levy. said it would take over. He said the process could take months.
Licht’s departure marks a dramatic downfall not long after he stepped down as executive producer of Stephen Colbert’s top-rated late-night show and vowed to bring a middle-of-the-road balance to CNN journalism. When Licht got the job, he told his friends that it was “a calling.”
The job will become even more difficult. Mr. Licht’s management and management of a series of shows, such as the ill-fated morning show co-anchored by Don Lemon and the Town Hall project featuring former President Donald J. Trump under withering criticism. The audience rating plummeted due to the mistake. He did little to strengthen the support of his colleagues.
Things got worse last week Atlantic has released a 15,000-word profile that extensively chronicles Licht’s stormy tenure, including criticism of the network’s coverage of the pandemic that alarmed the network’s public.
To make matters worse, CNN’s financial performance. The network made a profit of $750 million last year, down from $1.25 billion a year earlier, including one-off losses from its CNN+ streaming service.
Licht’s sudden resignation is the network’s latest hit in a tumultuous time.
In December 2021, primetime anchor Chris Cuomo was fired amid an ethics scandal involving his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Two months later, the agency’s longtime chief executive Jeff Zucker was fired for failing to disclose his relationship with fellow senior executive Alison Golast, who was also fired. He was kicked out within weeks of Zucker’s resignation.
For Licht, it didn’t help that Zucker enjoyed widespread loyalty, not only from top casters but also from regular workers, even after he left office. When employees started complaining about Mr. Licht, Mr. Zucker took a turn for the worse. Semi-complaint exchange bulletin board For frustrating staff.
One of Licht’s first big moves in programming was the transfer of Lemmon from his primetime responsibilities to a new morning show. Licht said the show, which Lemmon anchors alongside Poppy Harlow and Caitlan Collins, will “set the tone of the press.”
Instead, CNN This Morning, which launched in November, was marred by low ratings and tension on and off set. Two months after Mr. Lemmon said women over 50 weren’t “in their prime,” Mr. Lemmon was fired, effectively ruining Licht’s flagship project.
The mistake didn’t stop there. Licht spent a lot of time — Warner Bros. Discovery executives believed it would take too long — to finalize a primetime line-up that was rapidly losing viewers. To the shock of many of his CNN staffers, the network has occasionally lost out to Newsmax in primetime viewership since last month. And the May 10 broadcast of Trump City Hall was criticized both outside and inside CNN.
Just last week, Zaslav appointed his trusted lieutenant, Levy, as chief operating officer of the network, a move that suggests he believes Licht needs urgent management help.
On Monday, Licht addressed CNN staff after The Atlantic published a shocking story, saying he would “fight desperately” to regain trust.
He never got that chance.
Mr. Zaslav turned to a longtime CNN veteran to stabilize the ship. Mr. Entelis is the executive vice president of talent and content development, and he has been with CNN for more than a decade, anointing some of the network’s most famous stars during his long tenure. Earlier this year, she received acclaim for her CNN documentary about Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Moseley is also a heavyweight at CNN, joining the network more than a decade ago as acting Washington bureau chief. Since then, she has risen rapidly, and last year she was promoted to editorial vice president of US operations for the network.
Eric Scharling, CNN’s executive vice president of U.S. programming, has also worked for the network for more than a decade. In his current role, he oversees live programming for CNN’s US operations, including Morning and Primetime.
pack previously reported Licht has announced that he will be leaving CNN.
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