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CNN is considering a revamp of its anchor lineup, with less reliance on opinionated anchors like Don Lemon – a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump – and Brianna Keilar, in favor of the likes of White House Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, after profits were projected to fall below $1 billion, a first since 2016.
The news network, spearheaded by new chief, Chris Licht, formerly of CBS News, is shifting back toward reporting straight news rather than airing discussion panels between opinionated contributors often criticizing Republican policies in favor of liberal ones.
‘CNN seems to be moving back more toward straight news and away from some of the blatant opinion-mongering by its anchors that characterized its past few years,’ Mark Feldstein, chairman of the broadcast journalism department at the University of Maryland and a former CNN correspondent, told Variety.
An insider source also told Radar that Licht’s vision and new management style is worrisome to the network’s star personalities, like Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon worried, as they were ‘used to being treated like stars, not staff.’
Don Lemon and Brianna Keilar are rumored to be replaced by less opinionated anchors at CNN as the news network aims to get back to reporting straight news
CNN is considering recalling Kaitlan Collins, CNN’s Chief White House correspondent, back in- house to improve the news network’s ratings and reputation in favor of some of the channel’s opinionated anchors
CNN is expected to decline to $956.8 million in 2022, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, the New York Times reported. The drop is the first time the news network has hit below $1 billion in profit since 2016
Chris Licht took over at CNN in May and is seeking to make changes throughout the company to help viewers regain trust in the media
The pair were well-liked by former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned in February over his relationship with the channel’s chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust, often socializing with one another and chatting about company gossip.
‘Chris’ first priority will be fixing CNN’s morning and primetime programming,’ the insider source told Radar. ‘That is where the big advertiser money is. Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and the morning hosts should be concerned.’
Licht is also eyeing CNN correspondent Jamie Gangel and is rumored to wanting to bring in late-night TV talk show host Stephen Colbert, with whom he worked during his time at CBS News, as well as other familiar names including MSNBC ‘Morning Joe’ co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, according to Radar.
The relatively new CNN boss wants to emulate the success he found at CBS News, where the network’s ‘CBS This Morning’ show climbed to third in rankings of the most watching morning news shows in the U.S., behind NBC’s ‘Today’ and ABC’s ‘Good Morning America.’
Licht also helped CBS expand its profits by replacing movie stars on ‘Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ with news and political commentators during his time as executive producer.
TV talk show host Stephen Colbert is being rumored as a possible new addition at CNN, rumors report. Licht and Colbert know each other well as the new CNN boss used to be the executive producer of ‘The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert’ at CBS
MSNBC Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski are other familiar names that Licht has worked with in the past and is allegedly considering to hire at CNN
Talk of ringing changes at CNN comes as the news network is expected drop right below $1 billion ($956.8 million) in profit this year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The massive drop is the first time the news network doesn’t meet the benchmark since 2016.
The network’s rating also continue to plummet as the company witnesses their lowest numbers in seven years. Competitor MSNBC has also seen declines since former President Trump took office.
The network has decreased in viewership by 27 percent since last year as an average of 639,000 tuned in this quarter, according to a report. MSNBC viewership is down by 23 percent. Meanwhile, Fox News viewership is up by 1 percent.
When Licht took over in May, he attempted to resolve the declining numbers by riding of CNN+, a new platform offering original programming, that failed after it was being streamed by only 5,000 to 10,000 people. The company is still paying costs associated with the platform.
The company also cut back on various budget sectors including travel expenses. It also spent millions on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. To help solve the networks economic dilemma, Licht brought in Chris Marlin to help, an executive at a Florida real estate with a law background.
Marlin, who has no experience in television networking, was hired as head of strategy and business operations in May. He has attempted to invest in advertising gigs with big companies, such as Microsoft. He has also tossed around ideas about expanding CNN into China.
Licht’s goal is to ‘go a different way’ with the network at a time when ‘extremes are dominating cable news.’
Chris Marlin, who has a background in law and served as president of a real estate company in Florida, was hired in May to serve as the head of strategy and business operations. Marlin has thrown around ideas, such as expanding CNN into China
On his first day in May, he said the network would move away from opinion-led shows that have dominated the company.
Licht said he wanted to focus on ‘straightforward facts’ and ‘insightful commentary’ as ‘too many people have lost trust in the media.’
In a memo to his staff Licht said: ‘I think we can be a beacon in regaining that trust by being an organization that exemplifies the best characteristics of journalism: fearlessly speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo, questioning ‘group-think’ and educating viewers and readers with straightforward facts and insightful commentary, while always being respectful of differing viewpoints.’
The 50-year-old continued: ‘First and foremost, we should, and we will be advocates for the truth.’
Despite the dip in profit, Licht anticipates profits will increase in 2023 as he focusing on expanding the network with ‘editorial guidance’ rather than a ‘business strategy,’ a spokesperson told the New York Times.
He has ordered staff to stop using the phrase ‘the big lie’ to describe Donald Trump’s 2020 election fraud claims, as it’s a Democrat slogan.
Hosts like ‘Reliable Sources’ Brian Stelter are often fond of the phrase to the point where they use it prominently in graphic packages and chyrons.
But Licht has ordered Stelter and other journalists to stop, and has suggested ‘Trump’s election lie’ or ‘election lie’ as possible replacements.
He issued the edict days after warning staff over their incessant use of ‘BREAKING NEWS’ graphics on stories, which he said was melodramatic, and ultimately diluted the power of big stories when they did break.
Licht said in a memo sent out to CNN staff on his first day in the new job saying the company will be ‘advocates for the truth’
Licht is also said to be keen to move the well-resourced network back towards neutral news coverage, with CNN hailed over its coverage of the Ukraine war and other big international news stories.
The CNN boss also specifically wants on-air talent, producers and bookers to make programming decisions that are focused on ‘nuance’ and don’t tarnish the CNN brand, which was once regarded as ‘the most trusted name in news.
CNN was frequently a target for conservatives, a trend supercharged by former President Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ label. Some liberals believe it should have been tougher on Trump, while others recognized a ‘witch hunt’ against No. 45.
During Trump’s 2017-2021 presidency, the network’s ratings climbed due to Zucker’s strategy to include commentary and opinion ‘to fight for the truth.’
However, since Trump’s departure from the Oval Office, CNN has seen its ratings fall from 700 million viewers aged 25 to 54 at the end of the fourth quarter in 2020 to below 200 million by the end of 2021, according to The Financial Times.