Whether it was coincidental or planned, Warner Bros. Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav arrival at CNN’s New York offices on Tuesday created enough buzz, especially when it came to the job status of CNN chief Chris Licht.
Zaslav took the opportunity, although in a backhanded way, to defend Licht during a town hall meeting with 600 CNN managers. According to the New York Post, he said, “There’s not a playbook for Chris’ job. He’s gotten a lot wrong. We’ve gotten a lot wrong. That’s how it works.”
Zazlav added. “We’re all flawed. We are trying to figure out what is best for CNN…It’s a moment for Chris, and I know it’s a moment for you and for all of us that have shared a mission.”
Licht, who will be marking his first anniversary running the network in May, has had to contend with a lot in that time, some of his own making and some not.
His introduction to CNN was through the discontinuation of CNN’s streaming service CNN+ in April 2022. Licht was the one who pulled the plug on CNN+, a decision handed to him by his WBD superiors.
That rough introduction, coupled with the realignment of CNN’s coverage priorities, and his initial stance that there would be no layoffs, then coming out and saying there in fact would be layoffs, which were conducted towards the end of 2022, seem to have created an uncomfortable atmosphere within CNN’s offices. It has led to some employees pinning for their former boss Jeff Zucker, leading to whispers of Licht’s demise.
Licht seemed to acknowledge discontent within his ranks, saying that people who “aren’t engaged” with his objectives should be helped with finding employment elsewhere.
Not helping Licht’s case has been the difficult launch of CNN This Morning and the negative press the morning show continues to receive.
According to Puck’s Dylan Byers, Zaslav’s tour of CNN New York also included a presentation of the network’s branding strategy, viewing of CNN News Central’s new studio, a meeting with Washington programming chief Eric Sterling, who is Licht’s lead choice to become CNN’s U.S. programming chief, and meeting with CNN digital chief Athan Stephanopoulos for a briefing on the network’s new digital strategy.