CNN’s Future Owner Taps TV News Veteran Chris Licht to Lead Network
Mr. Licht, currently executive producer of ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,’ will have latitude to change CNN’s coverage mix
Chris Licht’s appointment as head of CNN comes at a pivotal time for the network.
By Joe Flint and Benjamin Mullin, WSJ
Feb. 28, 2022 11:29 am ET
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Discovery Inc. DISCB -1.96% appointed producer Chris Licht to lead CNN, turning to a veteran news and late-night TV showrunner to steady a network roiled by the sudden departure of its long-serving president.
“Chris is a dynamic and creative producer, an engaging and thoughtful journalist, and a true news person,” Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav said Monday. “He has been in the field, in the control room and on the set.”
Discovery said it expects Mr. Licht will start at CNN in early May, after Discovery’s acquisition of CNN parent WarnerMedia is complete. He will report directly to Mr. Zaslav.
Mr. Licht, who is currently executive producer of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Paramount Global’s CBS network, has also been the executive producer of “CBS This Morning” as well as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
The appointment of Mr. Licht comes during a pivotal period for CNN, which is grappling with declining ratings and is preparing to jump into the streaming wars with a new subscription service, CNN+, as the Discovery deal nears its close. The network is also reeling from the recent departures of CNN President Jeff Zucker, Chief Marketing Officer Allison Gollust and prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo.
Mr. Licht sent a note to CNN staffers Monday in which he said he understands the network’s employees have a lot of questions right now, including how CNN will change under his leadership.
“The honest answer is I don’t know yet,” Mr. Licht wrote. Mr. Zaslav, he added, has “given me one simple directive: To ensure that CNN remains the global leader in NEWS as part of Warner Bros. Discovery.”
While Mr. Licht is a newcomer to CNN, he isn’t totally unfamiliar with the network, as his wife, Jenny Blanco, is a former CNN staffer.
As chairman and chief executive officer of CNN Global, Mr. Licht will have a smaller role than Mr. Zucker, who beyond his role as CNN president also oversaw sports for WarnerMedia, people familiar with the matter said. When he starts, Mr. Licht will have latitude to make significant changes at CNN, including its business strategy, programming and digital offerings, one of the people said. One area of focus will likely be sizing up the network’s mix of political coverage, investigative reporting and breaking news and deciding whether it needs to be changed, the person said.