CNN’s leadership is undergoing a change as Chris Licht, who led the news network for slightly over a year, is departing. The announcement came on Wednesday morning from Warner Bros Discovery, CNN’s parent company.
Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a memo, “I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally. The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it. While we know we have work to do as we look to identify a new leader, we have absolute confidence in the team we have in place and will continue to fight for CNN and its world-class journalism.”
Zaslav added, “Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we had hoped – and ultimately, that’s on me. I take responsibility.”
He’s out. Chris Licht fired at CNN. Under his one-year reign as CEO, CNN’s ratings plummeted into the cellar, and he practically single-handedly destroyed the network’s reputation. pic.twitter.com/faO32ZZTR8
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) June 7, 2023
CNN executives Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling are anticipated to assume temporary leadership responsibilities alongside the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer David Leavy.
Zaslav’s memo went on to say, “We have great confidence in this group and will fully support them until a new CEO is named. We are in good hands, allowing us to take the time we need to run a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader.”
Licht’s departure coincided with a significant backlash from CNN’s talent and staff. During his tenure, which began when he terminated the costly CNN+ streaming service, he faced multiple programming errors and encountered consistently low ratings, contributing to his overall challenges.
Licht faced intense criticism in recent weeks following a town hall event hosted by CNN featuring Donald Trump, where the audience was predominantly composed of enthusiastic supporters of the former president. Despite drawing 3.3 million viewers, CNN’s ratings notably declined in the aftermath.
Within two days of the town hall, CNN’s prime-time viewership fell below that of Newsmax, a considerably smaller right-wing network.
Licht had been personally selected by Zaslav in 2022 to succeed Jeff Zucker, who was compelled to step down prior to a planned merger that resulted in CNN falling under Zaslav’s lead. With Licht’s departure, the future of Zaslav’s CNN appears uncertain.