The Chris Licht era at CNN has arrived in earnest.
The man who previously launched Morning Joe on MSNBC and CBS This Morning announced the imminent launch of a new CNN morning show—Licht’s first major programming move since joining the company in May. The new program will be co-anchored by three of the network’s highest-profile personalities: Primetime anchor Don Lemon, CNN Newsroom anchor Poppy Harlow and chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
“There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,” Licht said in a statement. “They are each uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry. Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.”
John Berman and Brianna Keilar will continue to anchor CNN New Day until the new program premieres. Both will assume new roles at the network later this year. CNN says additional details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Lemon’s run as a CNN primetime host will come to an end after eight years in the daypart. He was named permanent host of CNN Tonight (now named Don Lemon Tonight) in April 2014. The show launched one month after Lemon was given the CNN 10 p.m. timeslot for his coverage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappearance story. A network fixture, he started at CNN in September 2006 after serving as a co-anchor for the 5 p.m. newscast for NBC5 News in Chicago.
“The last eight years have been an incredible ride. I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of the best show teams in the business, but it’s time to shake things up. I am so appreciative of the Don Lemon Tonight team, my wonderful, loyal viewers and everyone who has believed in me,” Lemon said in a statement. “I was honestly floored when Chris Licht asked me to do this—and I’m honored by his belief in me. It’s going to be a thrill to take on this challenge with Poppy and Kaitlan. I’ll get to work with two of my dearest friends. Set your alarms folks, because we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Currently an anchor of CNN Newsroom from 9-11 a.m. ET, Harlow will begin waking up a few hours earlier for CNN. Since joining the company as a business correspondent in 2008, Harlow has interviewed dozens of the world’s most influential leaders in business and government, moderated two CNN Presidential Town Halls—and anchored breaking news coverage from the field for major stories, like the Boston Marathon Bombings and Paris terror attacks.
“What a gift to be able to sit beside Don and Kaitlan each morning. Don has been one of my closest friends for more than a decade—there for every milestone along the way. I’m consistently in awe of Kaitlan’s reporting and the remarkable woman she is,” Harlow added. “I can’t wait to laugh with them and learn from them each morning. I am grateful to Chris and my CNN family who have been so supportive of me.”
Currently the network’s chief White House correspondent, Collins will now serve as co-anchor and chief correspondent for the CNN’s new morning show. She will relocate from Washington to New York for this role.
She has served as CNN’s chief White House correspondent since the start of the Biden administration early last year—and she joined the network as a White House reporter in 2017 Before joining CNN, Collins had been White House correspondent for The Daily Caller, covering the early days of the Trump administration. Before that, she covered the 2016 presidential campaign for the conservative news site, while also leading its entertainment coverage.
She was recently elected White House Correspondents’ Association president for the 2024-’25 term.
“I am thrilled to start this new adventure at CNN and work alongside Don and Poppy, two colleagues I deeply admire,” said Collins. “To go from sharing my reporting on their shows, to sitting at the desk alongside them is an incredible opportunity and I’m deeply humbled by it. I’m so grateful to Chris and CNN for building something truly special. I can’t wait to wake with our viewers and do the news every day. So, pour a cup of coffee and join us!”
One of Licht’s primary tasks, when being named CNN chairman and CEO back in the spring, was to retool the network’s morning show, given his experience and track record in the daypart. CNN New Day has been stuck in third place behind Fox & Friends and Morning Joe for most of its run—and moving one of the network’s most visible personalities in Lemon from primetime to morning is an intriguing move and will certainly attract some attention. Whether the move will pay off in the Nielsen ratings department remains to be seen.
The next question becomes, what happens to CNN primetime? Upon taking reins of the network, Licht was tasked with filling the 9 p.m. timeslot after the exit of Chris Cuomo last December. The 9 p.m. hour has still yet to be resolved—and Licht now also has to name a permanent replacement for Lemon at 10 p.m. Anderson Cooper 360 keeps a hold on the 8 p.m. hour, but it remains to be seen who will hold CNN’s 9-midnight ET hours. One imagines we’ll find out sooner rather than later.