Nothing is official yet but a memo sent out today by Chris Licht is being viewed as the writing on the wall. There will likely be some significant layoffs and budget cuts by the end of the year, in part because of declining viewership.

In the memo, Mr. Licht said that concerns over the global economy had forced him to re-evaluate CNN’s priorities, noting that he would make “noticeable change” to the organization.

“That, by definition, is unsettling,” Mr. Licht said. “These changes will not be easy, because it will affect people, budgets and projects.”

CNN will have operating expenses of about $882 million this year, according to estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Even a single-digit percentage cut from that budget would shave millions of dollars and potentially dozens of jobs from the network…

CNN’s profitability has sagged this year as its viewership declined and because of the costs of covering the war in Ukraine. The company is expected to dip below $1 billion in profit in 2022 for the first time in years.

CNBC had a story up about this even before Licht’s memo went out. That story also mentioned the change of direction at CNN since the departure of Jeff Zucker. Licht is less hands on and is also interested in broadening the topics the network covers.

Licht is purposefully leading CNN differently than Zucker. He’s avoiding saying what he thinks about individual show choices, according to people familiar with his leadership style. Licht has said in private meetings that he’s trying to empower executive producers and show producers to make decisions by themselves. He wants employees to hear marching orders from direct managers rather than him. That’s a significant change for show leaders who have been conditioned to wait for Zucker’s blessing before acting…

Licht’s approach isn’t the only thing changing. He wants CNN to cover stories more like a newspaper and less like Politico, according to people familiar with his thinking. That means more stories that an average family would discuss around the dinner table and less obsessive focus on politics. He’d like to cover more business, technology and even sports, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private.

That’s particularly important for moments in time that aren’t dominated by crises. One of Licht’s major complaints with CNN in recent years has been the network’s tendency to hover in outrage, said the people. Pushing conversations to the extreme on a topic such as a new coronavirus mutation may make for compelling television, but if Americans are moving forward with their days and not even speaking about it, it’s not right for CNN, said the people.

Licht is already contemplating how to cover Trump if he runs for president again in 2024. Licht hasn’t told anchors or reporters to become more centrist, contrary to popular belief, according to people familiar with his conversations with talent. He does want viewpoints from both sides of the political divide to appear on CNN. But he won’t stand for guests who push disinformation, he said.

Hovering in outrage is certainly a good description for how CNN has covered things for the past 4-5 years. That was very profitable for CNN as resistance journalism became the norm but it’s clearly not working for them anymore. The real test will be how they respond if Trump does run for office again. Will they be able to resist the urge to focus their attention on him or will they succumb as they have in the past?

I’ve posted this clip before but Ted Koppel really did nail it four years ago when he pointed out how good Donald Trump had been for CNN. Four years later, Brian Stelter is gone and Koppel looks more prophetic than ever.

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