CNN boss Chris Licht on restoring trust and why he deleted his Twitter account

Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Slumping ratings, cost-cutting, show cancellations and — comedy?

The path of CNN has been a bit rocky since it became part of Warner Bros. Discovery last year and the parent company's chief executive, David Zaslav, picked veteran news and late-night TV producer Chris Licht to run the network that created the cable news business nearly 43 years ago.

CNN has cut personnel amid broader cost-cutting efforts at the parent company. But Licht, 51, has been deliberate in his programming moves. He launched "CNN This Morning" with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, which is starting slowly in the ratings but growing since it began simulcasting on HLN. He's announced an upcoming revamp of CNN's daytime lineup, moving it away from the traditional behind-the-desk news reading and using a trio of anchors.

Licht has yet to take a big swing in prime time — the network has never replaced host Chris Cuomo, who was fired in December 2021 — although it's likely a comedian will be part of the equation. (Fox News is drawing more than 2 million viewers a night with a comedy-driven talk show, "Gutfeld!") CNN will test those waters starting this Friday with "Overtime." The extension of HBO's topical comedy talk show "Real Time With Bill Maher" will be shown on CNN at 11:30 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. PT.

Licht shared some thoughts on his vision for CNN in a conversation last week on a Zoom call from his office in New York.

How are you feeling about the fishbowl aspect of this job, where every move seems to be analyzed and criticized? Were you prepared for that?


It's a symptom of CNN's place in society. It's an incredibly big job that deserves this level of scrutiny, and when Zas offered me the job, he probably said 37 times in one conversation how brutal it was going to be. Intellectually, I absolutely expected this and I'm not surprised at all.

How is it emotionally?

Listen, you have to remember that I took this job because I was very clear on a vision of what I want to do and where I fit into Zaslav's vision of the company. So that's why I deleted my Twitter account. I'm not really susceptible to the highs and lows of it, because I'm really very focused on the end product.

What do you think is better about CNN since you arrived?


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