We recently learned that Chris Licht will be taking over at CNN now that Jeff Zucker has hit the road. Axios describes the new boss’s game plan as an intent to have the network “dull its liberal edge.” Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like an awfully large leap both upwards and sideways for someone who was primarily known for being a showrunner for Stephen Colbert, CBS This Morning, and Morning Joe. And that pedigree doesn’t exactly sound like the foundation for a shift toward the middle and away from the radical left, either. Still, network insiders are reportedly saying that Licht will lead a drive to bring CNN back to a greater focus on “hard news.”
Under new chief Chris Licht, CNN will dial down the prime-time partisanship and double down on the network’s news-gathering muscle, top sources tell me.
Why it matters: Ratings are secondary to credibility, in the view of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who’s taking over CNN.
Jeff Zucker’s successor at the CNN helm will be Licht — showrunner of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and a popular, pioneering producer who knows his way around America’s top control rooms.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who is taking over at the top, will reportedly try to temper CNN’s “red hot liberal opining.” He apparently feels that the network has been focused on prime-time ratings for its lineup of opinion hosts at the expense of their original brand, that being on-the-ground reporting of actual news as it happens. Zaslav is also supposedly not as much of a fan of the new, digital “CNN+” offshoot and may trim back the roster over there.
Our colleagues at Redstate have some additional tidbits from the insider rumor mill regarding some “reassignments” of big names at CNN that they describe as hilarious. Near the top of the list are Brian Stelter and his partner Oliver Darcy, who are being eyed to move out of the “media reporter” slot. And if that happens, there may not be anywhere for them to land in the supposedly kinder, gentler, and more moderate CNN lineup.
Notice that it wasn’t Brian Stelter, CNN’s own “media reporter,” that broke this news. That’s not a coincidence. Per Jon Nicosia, Stelter and his sidekick, Oliver Darcy, are looking at being reassigned. Discovery, which has purchased the liberal network, is reportedly looking to dial back the partisanship of its “reporters” in order to re-establish some credibility and standards…
By the numbers, Stelter’s ratings have never justified his position with the network. The lack of talent has long been apparent, compounded by overt partisanship expressed in a way completely void of charisma. If that’s not what CNN’s new ownership is looking for, where does Stelter ultimately end up? The answer to that could very well be “on the street.”
As they go on to note, Discovery wouldn’t have purchased CNN with the intent of losing money. And currently, that’s about all that would happen unless the network can drag its ratings up out of the gutter. It’s highly likely that CNN will see a ratings bump for February because of the 24/7 global interest in what’s happening in Ukraine. But that situation will resolve itself (for better or worse) sooner or later and they will need to go back to covering the usual election beat and the latest rounds of hurricane and tornado footage. That’s where they’ve been getting their butts kicked consistently by Fox News and by a wide margin.
Is Chris Licht really the guy to turn this around at CNN? Perhaps. But if he’s going to do that, he can’t settle for just axing some of the evening talk personalities and focusing on hard news. The reason for this is the fact that even their “hard news” crews put such an obvious liberal slant on almost all of their coverage that it just turns people off. If Discovery wants CNN to truly go back to its roots, they’ll need to ensure that all of their reporters and anchors go back to the “who, what, where, when” model of traditional reporting and abandon their efforts to “explain what it all means” to the viewers. That would be a refreshing change.