New CNN CEO Chris Licht, 51, (pictured) refuted claims that he wants to take CNN back to political center, saying: 'One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t. You have to be compelling. You have to have edge'
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New CNN CEO Chris Licht refuted claims that he wanted to make the network centrist, calling the idea ‘bulls**t’ and saying it needed to retain its ‘edge.’   

‘One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t,’ he said in a new interview with the Financial Times. ‘You have to be compelling. You have to have edge.’ 

Critics say that Licht wants to seep the opinion out of CNN – which was largely criticized for being too political during Donald Trump’s presidency – but the former Stephen Colbert producer dismisses this. 

‘In many cases, you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions. But either way. you don’t see it through a lens of left or right.’ 

However, insiders said there ‘is no audience in the middle. It doesn’t exist. It’s a mirage.’ 

Another CNN executive, who was not identified, told the Times that they ‘never remember a single advertiser complaining that the talent was too opinionated.’ 

Licht, 51, took over as CEO from Jeff Zucker, 57, in May after the latter was forced to resign for not disclosing his relationship with fellow executive Allison Gollust, 49. 

Since Licht’s onboarding, he has been tasked with revitalizing CNN and finding ways to cut costs as the company’s revenue, ad sales, and profits are down nearly half a billion since the peak Zucker days.

Licht had recently pitched taking America’s first-ever 24-hour news channel back to its roots and following founder Ted Turner’s idea of ‘making news the star,’ and making the network feel more like a newspaper by offering lifestyle reporting as well as breaking news. 

The company’s profits downturned when its steaming service CNN+ was canceled in its infancy and after it lost some of its major anchors, such as Chris Cuomo and Brian Stelter.  

New CNN CEO Chris Licht, 51, (pictured) refuted claims that he wants to take CNN back to political center, saying: 'One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t. You have to be compelling. You have to have edge'

New CNN CEO Chris Licht, 51, (pictured) refuted claims that he wants to take CNN back to political center, saying: ‘One of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t. You have to be compelling. You have to have edge’ 

Licht took over as CEO from Jeff Zucker, 57, (pictured) in May after the latter was forced to resign for not disclosing his relationship with fellow executive Allison Gollust, 49. CNN, under Zucker, was criticized for being too political during the Trump era

Licht took over as CEO from Jeff Zucker, 57, (pictured) in May after the latter was forced to resign for not disclosing his relationship with fellow executive Allison Gollust, 49. CNN, under Zucker, was criticized for being too political during the Trump era 

All major cable news networks have lost viewers since Trump left office, but CNN suffered more than others.

By the end of October, CNN’s viewership sank to a 2015 low, drawing in on 430,000 viewers per day. On election night – which it once dominated – it lost 49 percent of viewers from the last midterms in 2018. 

‘We usually own the night,’ an unidentified CNN journalist told the Financial Times. 

Its cable news subscribers are also expected to drop around six percent this year, according to people familiar with the accounts. Executives reportedly don’t see this changing anytime soon as last year decline was similar. 

CNN’s decline in revenue has led to layoffs, as also seen by ABC News and NBCUniversal. 

‘This has been a hell of a year,’ Licht said during a town hall meeting, viewed by the Financial Times. ‘I said in my first town hall how this organization has been taking gut punches. The last thing I want to be is another gut punch. And I know what we are doing right now is another gut punch.’ 

In addition, CNN faces the biggest political polarization within its audience member’s trust compared to other news sources. 

Part of Licht’s goal is to lessen the distinctive political programming and start implementing more informed opinions, which he says the audiences have already started to see. 

‘If everything is a crisis, if everything is 11, if everything is breaking news, then no one listens when there actually is a crisis. When you say: “No, no — really — the house is on fire now.”‘ 

Licht had recently pitched taking America's first-ever 24-hour news channel back to its roots and following founder Ted Turner's idea of 'making news the star,' and making the network feel more like a newspaper by offering lifestyle reporting as well as breaking news (pictured: Ted Turner in 2019)

Licht had recently pitched taking America’s first-ever 24-hour news channel back to its roots and following founder Ted Turner’s idea of ‘making news the star,’ and making the network feel more like a newspaper by offering lifestyle reporting as well as breaking news (pictured: Ted Turner in 2019)

Jon Klein, who ran CNN’s US operations prior to Zucker, said neutralization will actually help the network gain back its audience, but only if its quick on its feet. 

‘They will get higher ratings if they stop pushing opinion but they have to hurry,’ he told the Financial Times. 

He went on to say that unbiased news is an ‘enormous business opportunity.’ 

‘It will be like turning the light in the lighthouse back on. Everyone will go: What took you so long?’ he said. 

However, critical insiders have also said the new executive lacks the ‘superpower’ Zucker had and that company has been thrown into a ‘loop’ since his departure. 

‘The only person saving him is [Warner Bros Discovery President David] Zaslav and that’s because they care about the politics more than the business,’ an unidentified CNN employee of 25 years said. 

Discovery bought out Warner Bros, which held the rights to CNN and HBO.  

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