by Frank Holmes, reporter
CNN has seen better days — and soon, some of its top stars might just see the door.
The first 24-hour news network is scraping the bottom of the barrel financially, looking at the lowest profit margins in years…and the new management says it’s finally time for heads to roll.
That could be very bad news for CNN fixtures like Don Lemon, Briana Keilar, and Brian Stelter, who are all Blue State talking heads rumored to be on the short list for a pink slip.
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The changes are being handed down by the new network boss, Chris Licht, who took the helm at CNN in May. That’s just three months after CNN’s parent company fired Jeff Zucker, who spent years encouraging the network to go all-in on opinion, anti-Trump posturing, and sensationalism about Russian collusion.
“The walls are closing in!” CNN spent most of the Trump presidency swearing to its viewers, only to see Robert Mueller issue a report that failed to substantiate a single instance of the Trump campaign working with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential election.
Zucker finally got the axe, allegedly because he had an affair with a subordinate, but low ratings can’t have helped… and those ratings have continued to slide.
Only about 639,000 viewers watch the network during its prime time line-up—a 27 percent drop since this time last year, when numbers were already down.
MSNBC has also seen viewers tune out, while Fox News Channel has increased its viewership by one percent.
In the cable news game, low ratings translate to low earnings. CNN just announced its lowest profits in years: $956.8 million in 2022, according to The New York Times’ analysis of S&P Global Market Intelligence data. That makes this year CNN’s lowest-revenue year since 2016.
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That means CEO David Zaslav has to cut $3 billion from the network. The first item on the chopping block was the network’s low-subscription streaming service, CNN+, which folded after just a month on the air.
Next up? Massive layoffs, according to insiders.
“Thousands of workers are reportedly expected to be impacted by the layoffs, which are expected to stretch through Thanksgiving,” conservative news outlet Breitbart reported.
And the layoffs won’t be confined to low-level reporters trying to make a name for themselves. Licht wants the people who drove the network into the ground to pay the price.
“Chris’ first priority will be fixing CNN’s morning and primetime programming,” a CNN “insider” told the website Radar. “That is where the big advertiser money is. Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and the morning hosts should be concerned.” In fact, the source said, they’re already shaking in their Gucci loafers, because they’re “used to being treated like stars, not staff.”
Soon, they’ll be treated like ex-staff, if reports are to be believed. Meanwhile, CNN wants to replace them with big name competitors.
Variety said CNN had begun a “recalibration of on-air talent that could become more apparent this fall.”
Licht helped put “Morning Joe” on the air in 2007 and ran “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” when he was at CBS. Now, sources say, he wants to get the band back together.
He wants to bring Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski from MSNBC to CNN, reports say. Then, he wants to carve out a special slot for Stephen Colbert to act as a regular contributor to CNN’s news programs, without leaving late-night spot at CBS.
“As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone who would be a worse hire, except maybe Jimmy Kimmel,” wrote Sophie O’Hara at WayneDupree.com. “Never mind that Colbert’s ratings have flat-lined, after crashing 45 percent last year. The guy is attracting nobody new, because all he does is bash Republicans and Trump, and discuss social and political issues like an activist, not a comedian.”
Former “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace might also score a new weekend show on CNN, Variety reports. Wallace, who long stood out as Fox News’ most liberal host after the departure of Shepard Smith for CNBC, departed number one-rated Fox to hold down a position on CNN+.
“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,” former CNN correspondent-turned-journalism professor Mark Feldstein claimed.
For instance, Licht told CNN anchors to quit calling President Donald Trump’s allegations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen “The Big Lie.”
But don’t get too excited—Licht told anchors to call it the “election lie” instead. He didn’t mind his anchors mouthing Democratic talking points; he just didn’t like them repeating the exact same phrases word-for-word.
There could be big changes coming to other aspects of the airport-friendly CNN.
Some outlets say the network’s parent company is contemplating a merger between its streaming services, HBOMax and Discovery+, possibly under a new name. Or it may cut back HBOMax’s program offerings.
Meanwhile, CNN’s former top-rated host, Chris Cuomo, has shifted to upstart network NewsNation. The younger brother of the former governor of New York state, who now claims to be a born-again centrist, already started a podcast and will have his own primetime show on the news network in the fall.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like CNN has any interest in removing the on-air bias from its news.
“Clearly, the new bosses at CNN don’t have a clue, and they’ll just keep hemorrhaging viewers until they finally pull the plug and put CNN and America, out of its misery,” wrote O’Hara.
Frank Holmes is a veteran journalist and an outspoken conservative that talks about the news that was in his weekly article, “On The Holmes Front.”