CNN chairman & CEO Chris Licht exits WBD-owned network after 13 months

Chris Licht

Chris Licht has stepped down as CEO and chairman of Warner Bros. Discovery owned CNN Worldwide after just 13 months in the role.

His ousting comes just days after an article in The Atlantic raised questions about his leadership, and follows criticisms of management mis-steps, including how CNN handled a town hall interview with former US president Donald Trump, amid declining ratings for the news network.

“The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation,” commented WBD president and CEO David Zaslav, who said that Licht had “poured his heart and soul into it.”

An acting leadership team of Amy Entelis, EVP of talent & content development; Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial; Eric Sherling, EVP of US programming; and David Leavy, commercial COO, will take charge of CNN until a new CEO is appointed.

Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy

Mis-steps & cut-backs

Licht took over as CEO and chairman in May 2022, replacing Jeff Zucker, who resigned from the post after failing to disclose a “consensual relationship” with a colleague, following almost a decade in the role.

His appointment heralded a year of change at CNN, including the closure of its much-hyped SVOD CNN+, just a month after its launch, leading to the exits of execs including Andrew Morse, then EVP & chief digital officer of CNN Worldwide, who was later replaced by NowThis alum Athan Stephanopoulos.

Licht also presided over a wave of staff cuts just six months into his tenure, citing “widespread concern over the global economic outlook” and oversaw the firing of popular veteran presenters such as Don Lemon in a perceived effort to appeal to more Republican viewers.

In a highly criticised CNN town hall with Donald Trump on 10 May, the former US president repeated lies about electon fraud and demeaned E Jean Carroll, the writer against whom he was found liable in a civil case for sexual assault and defamation.

In October, Licht announced that the organisation would be making changes to how it approached “premium longform content” and pared down its third-party series commissionsfollowing success with shows such as Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy and Navalny – with longform content now coming solely from in-house divisions. Entelis, who now serve as one of CNN’s interim leadership, had been tasked to explore how an in-house studio could operate.

Soon after this change, Michael Bass, EVP of programming, exited the company. He held responsibility for in-house original documentaries, as well as special and sponsored content, and helped to develop series including Roots and The Person Who Changed My Life.

Bass had also served as interm leadership, alongside Entelis and US chief Ken Jautz, while CNN was looking to replace Zucker, before it appointed Licht.

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