Christ Licht, chief executive and chairman of CNN, will be stepping down after just one year at the struggling news network. Despite Licht’s relatively short tenure at the company, it was very tumultuous. CEO of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery confirmed that Licht would be leaving the company, stating, “I met with Chris, and he will be leaving CNN.”
CNN has been struggling as a network, experiencing declining profitability, mass firings, and plummeting ratings. The company even parted ways with veteran anchors, such as Brian Stelter and Don Lemon. Reportedly, the confluence of all these factors tanked employee morale at the news network.
In a statement, Licht described the past 13 months at CNN as exciting but challenging. He joined CNN last year after successfully running “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” However, his time at CNN would be much different. Allegedly, he failed to gain the trust of employees around him at the news network, often leading to leaks and criticism.
Most recently, The Atlantic released a long, scathing article about Licht, where the author gathered the testimony of over 100 CNN employees. The report raised concerns over his capacity as a leader in the company. Reportedly, The Atlantic article was the final straw for David Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN parent company Warner Bros, who had growing concerns over Licht’s leadership.
Zaslav indicated that searching for Licht’s replacement would “take a while” as sufficient time would be needed to find the proper leader. The interim leadership team will consist of several experienced senior leaders within the company. They include Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, executive vice president of editorial; and Eric Sherling, executive vice president of U.S. programming.
One recent blow to CNN, under Licht, was the network’s town hall with former president Donald Trump which proved to be a disaster for CNN. Many saw the live event as a win for Trump as he even fact-checked the host, Kaitlin Collins, on the events that ensued on January 6. Furthermore, there were many instances at the town hall where the crowd was cheering and supporting Trump’s statements at CNN’s own event. If this was an effort to slam Trump and embarrass him on live television, it completely failed in front of a massive TV audience of over 3 million.
Moreover, CNN’s ratings collapsed after the town hall, even falling below Newsmax, a significantly smaller network. Before the event, CNN averaged 494,000 primetime viewers and 111,000 key demographic viewers. Following the event, the average ratings dropped to 400,000 primetime viewers and 94,000 key demographic viewers. This was nearly a 20 percent drop in primetime viewers for the network. Meanwhile, Fox News and MSNBC were averaging viewership well into the millions.
However, this is not a new trend for CNN, where declining ratings have been a continual trend for the news network. The American Tribune reported earlier this year that CNN’s primetime ratings had collapsed 71 percent compared to the prior year. In the same time frame, Fox News celebrated its 100th consecutive week as the top cable news network in total day viewers in the adult 25-54 category.
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