Chris Licht has been fired from CNN, Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday. Licht replaced Jeff Zucker at the cable news network (formerly called the Cable News Network), assuming the titles of president and CEO of CNN Worldwide in May 2022. The tenure was short-lived.
“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” David Zaslav, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, said Wednesday morning. “The job of leading CNN has never been easy, especially in a time of massive disruption and transformation, and he has put his heart and soul into it. While we know we have work to do as we seek to identify a new leader, we have absolute confidence in the team we have in place and will continue to fight for CNN and its world-class journalism.”
Zaslav tapped Licht to turn around struggling CNN. One of their first deals? Shut down the disastrous CNN+ less than a month after its launch.
On Wednesday Zaslav sent an email to staff members informing them of the decision of Licht’s departure; IndieWire got the memo, you can read it below.
Licht will be replaced at the top of CNN on an interim basis by a team that includes Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development, Virginia Moseley, executive vice president of publishing, and Eric Sherling, executive vice president of US programming, according to the announcement of Warner Bros. Discovery. . David Leavy, chief operating officer of CNN Worldwide, will assume Licht’s duties on the business side, the press release added.
The former producer and showrunner of ‘The Late Show Starring Stephen Colbert’ has had a tumultuous run at CNN. Among the many problems Licht faced — or even caused, in some cases — were CNN’s poor TV ratings, a recent Town Hall fiasco with Donald Trump, and an all-access story in The Atlantic that put Licht under the wrong spotlight at the wrong time.
Among the piece’s memorable moments, which felt deaf to many readers amid CNN’s struggles, was a scene in which Licht, while weight training, wondered if Zucker could lift what he lifted. Read the Atlantic story, titled “Inside the Meltdown at CNN,” Here. Consider it the nail in Licht’s CNN coffin.
Zaslav could be excused for betting everything on Licht. Not only did he help Colbert become the new king of late night (in terms of total viewers), Licht had plenty of experience in news programming. He was previously the vice president of programming for CBS News and executive producer of the network’s morning news show, ‘CBS This Morning,’ which he helped launch in 2012. And prior to CBS, Licht was the original co-creator and executive producer of The MSNBC’s popular morning news program “Morning Joe”.
As promised, below is Zaslav’s internal memo to employees. The bold is his.
This morning we announce that Chris Licht will be leaving CNN and we will be conducting an extensive internal and external search for a new leader. I wanted you to hear this news directly from me as it impacts you and your teams.
I have known Chris for many years and have tremendous respect for him, personally and professionally. This job was never going to be easy, especially at a time of great disruption and transformation, and Chris put his heart and soul into it. He has a deep love of journalism and this business and this has been evident throughout his tenure. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as we hoped, and in the end it’s my fault. I take responsibility. It goes without saying that we appreciate Chris’ efforts and dedication and wish him all the best.
We have a robust transition plan in place with the appointment of an interim leadership team of experienced programming executives… Amy EntelisEVP, talent and content development, Virginia MoseleyEVP, editorial and Eric SherlingEVP, US programming, along with David Levi, COO, on the commercial side. We have great confidence in this group and will fully support them until a new CEO is appointed. We’re in good hands, which allows us to take the time we need to do a thoughtful and thorough search for a new leader. I recognize that changes like this can be stressful and I appreciate your continued patience as we move through this process.
You’ve heard me say many times: CNN has the best reporters in the world…we are deeply committed to supporting them and the critical work CNN does every day. We have to get it right – and we will!