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CEO Chris Licht is leaving CNN.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav confirmed the news Wednesday morning while addressing staff:
“I met with Chris and he will be leaving CNN. We’re in the process of conducting a wide search, internally and externally, for a new leader.”
Licht replaced Jeff Zucker 13 months ago with a short-lived run that included lineup reshuffles, internal leaks, viewership declines, talent firings, and a damning Atlantic profile.
Still, Discovery placed Licht in a challenging situation with little pathway to success.
Licht inherited a diminished brand from Zucker. Ratings were on a steady decline before his arrival.
Conservatives had rightfully abandoned the network. Meanwhile, liberals rejected the less partisan edict that Licht’s bosses deployed him to install.
To understand the mess he took sought to fix, consider that he assumed the CEO role a month after the short-lived life of CNN+.
The network also lacked a face of the company, as Chris Cuomo was dismissed months before Licht’s arrival.
The channel didn’t give Licht much to work with. And Anderson Cooper was its leading draw.
Programming changes under Licht included demoting Don Lemon from primetime to a morning show, then firing him earlier this year. Firing Brian Stelter. Hiring Gayle King and Charles Barkley for a planned weekly show (the future of this project is unclear). And recently elevating Kaitlan Collins to primetime.
Not bad changes, to be fair.
As for his replacement, Zaslav says the CEO search “will take months, because I think it’s important that things settle down, and we’ve gotta get it right. We [will] find a great leader, from inside or outside, and off we go.”
In the meantime, CNN talent chief Amy Entelis will steer what Zaslav calls an “acting leadership team” along with editorial chief Virginia Moseley and programming chief Eric Sherling.
*This is a breaking news story. OutKick will provide a piece with longer analysis later today.