New CNN boss Chris Licht has been on the job just three months after the surprise firing of longtime chief executive Jeff Zucker.
Not only did he take over a divisive, scandal-wracked network with major image problems — he also has struggled to turn around the cable news channel’s plummeting ratings.
The network’s profitability has cratered to just $956.8 million this year, according to The New York Times on Tuesday. That’s far behind the company’s goal of $1.1 billion — and the lowest profitability since 2016.
CNN has drawn just 639,000 viewers on average during prime time this quarter, which is a 27% crash from 2021 and trailed competitors MSNBC and Fox News.
The downturn comes amid Licht’s vow to restore trust in CNN as a moderate network that would abandon its far-Left lean.
“Journalism first. America needs a news network where everybody can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats,” Zaslav promised. “I think you’re seeing more of that at CNN. We’re not going to look at the ratings and, in the long run, it’s going to be worth more.”
Just months ago, the day before Licht took over, CNN shut down its CNN+ streaming service less than a month after its launch despite spending millions to build the service. It was a spectacular flameout for a venture that had attracted stars like Chris Wallace and Alison Roman and was seen as a way to attract a new generation of news consumers.
It had started March 29, shortly before CNN was taken over by new corporate parents. The new leaders of Warner Bros. Discovery quickly let it be known they considered CNN+ an ill-conceived idea.
Mass layoffs soon followed. Licht said consumers wanted “simplicity and an all-in service” rather than stand-alone offerings. Discovery had previously suggested that it wanted to merge the new company’s separate streaming services, which include Discovery+ and HBO Max, into a single app.
Executives also said that the service’s inability to show live breaking news was a crucial failing. Because of contracts with cable and satellite companies, CNN+ could not stream the CNN television network.
“It’s a little bit like The New York Times subscription without The New York Times,” said J.B. Perrette, head of Discovery’s streaming services.
Under AT&T, there were $100 million in development costs and some 500 employees assigned to building out CNN+, most of whom were fired.
“We have to own the erosion of trust and build it back,” Licht said.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article