Longtime Executive Producer Chris Licht Will Succeed Jeff Zucker as CNN President

By A.J. Katz 

Chris Licht is returning to television news.

The man who launched Morning Joe and then a re-branded CBS This Morning, before moving to late night to executive produce The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, is returning to his TV news roots to lead CNN Worldwide once parent company WarnerMedia merges with Discovery.

CNN is currently being co-led on an interim basis by talent development evp Amy Entelis, programming evp Michael Bass and business affairs evp Ken Jautz.


Puck’s Dylan Byers reported the move and it has been matched by multiple outlets. CNN’s Brian Stelter reports, citing a source, that the announcement will be made next week. Licht’s CBS deal expires in April.

Discovery did not immediately respond to a TVNewser request for comment.

Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who will take leadership of the new Warner Bros. Discovery after the merger goes through, reportedly lured Licht away from a development deal that Colbert and his executive team had put together with Paramount, CBS’ parent company. Unlike former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, Licht will reportedly not lead the company’s sports division.

Licht was named executive producer of Colbert’s Late Show on CBS in 2016. In the years since, The Late Show has become the most-watched show in late night. Licht is also evp of special programming at Paramount, consulting on programming across the company.

Before jumping to late night, Licht spent five years at CBS News, joining in 2011 as VP of programming and executive producer of CBS This Morning. He arrived at CBS News from MSNBC where he co-created and was the ep of Morning Joe when it launched in May 2007. Licht joined MSNBC in 2005 as Joe Scarborough‘s producer on his evening program Scarborough Country—and previously worked at NBC stations in San Jose and Los Angeles.

Licht will take over the original cable news network, which is coming off an insider upheaval. Parent company WarnerMedia forced Zucker to resign from the company in early February. In his resignation note to staff, Zucker mentioned a failure to disclose a consensual romantic relationship with Allison Gollust, a longtime deputy.

Zucker and Gollust, both divorced, have known each other and worked closely with one another for many years, going back to their days at NBC News. Zucker disclosed the relationship as part of an internal investigation into Chris Cuomo, who was fired from CNN in early December for conduct relating to his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after the governor was accused of sexual harassment.

Gollust, who had been CNN evp, cmo and the network’s chief spokesperson, was forced to resign days later after the investigation conducted by the Cravath Swaine & Moore law firm found that she had discussed interview topics as part of “extensive” communications with Gov. Cuomo.

Following Gollust’s departure, WarnerMedia’s head of corporate comms and marketing James Anderson was named interim head of communications at CNN Worldwide.

While CNN has caught a lot of heat in recent weeks, the network’s live breaking news coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this week has garnered praise from many, including Discovery executives.

“I’ve been watching a lot of CNN,” Zaslav said on an investor call yesterday. While other news channels have people “sitting behind desks and giving their opinion about what’s going on,” he said, CNN is “on the ground with journalists in bulletproof vests and helmets that are doing what journalists do best, which is fight to tell the truth in dangerous places. So that we all can be safe and we can assess what’s going on.”