CNN cuts ‘outside partners’ ties by moving series & documentary production in-house

Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy

CNN is pulling back from third-party series commissions as the Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD)-owned news division continues to pare back its offering.

Chris Licht, CNN’s CEO, told employees in a memo on Friday that the organisation would be “making changes to how we approach premium longform content” and moving away from third-party producer involvement.

Since Discovery merged with WarnerMedia earlier this year to create WBD, CNN has seen its nascent streaming service shuttered after a month of operation and some of its most senior execs depart.

The latest move to restrict third-party series and features – following success with shows such as Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy and Navalny – means longform content will now come solely from in-house divisions.

“Our long-term plan will no longer rely on commissioned projects with outside partners,” wrote Licht, who said that CNN has worked on around 60 docs over the past decade and more than 45 series involving third-parties. He added that the “ever-increasing cost of commissioning third-party” shows was a key factor behind the move, but said long-form “remains an important pillar of our programming.”

Amy Entelis, CNN Worldwide’s EVP for talent & content development, will explore how an in-house studio could operate, with Licht adding that the goal “is to find a model that will enable us to bring our audiences this type of programming with greater flexibility.” It is unclear what will happen to around a dozen projects slated for 2023, of which half are series.

The news follows an announcement last week that “noticeable change” should be expected at CNN that will affect employees, budgets and projects. Athan Stephanopoulos was subsequently named EVP & chief digital officer of CNN Worldwide, reporting into Licht.


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