New CNN boss Chris Licht ‘determined to tamp down spectacle’ as he evaluates who should stick around: insider

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Recently appointed CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht is assessing who should stick around, and who should be shown the door, as he is “determined to tamp down spectacle” and restore the network’s reputation. 

“Chris is the midst of an entire org evaluation, which includes a review of talent and executives — not just two anchors. He’s determined to tamp down spectacle and has discouraged the presentation of content in an alarmist fashion,” a CNN insider told Fox News Digital. 

The “two anchors” comment was a reference to an Axios report last week that suggested Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta were seen as the “face of the network’s liberal shift” in the eyes of conservatives. 

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New CNN boss Chris Licht ‘determined to tamp down spectacle’ as he evaluates who should stick around: insider

Brian Stelter and CNN colleague Jim Acosta were recently signaled out as the "face of the network’s liberal shift" in the eyes of conservatives.
((AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana/Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN)

Former boss Jeff Zucker, who was forced to step down earlier this year ahead of the long-planned merger that put CNN under the control of Warner Bros. Discovery, was largely responsible for the network’s shift from a just-the-facts news operation to a channel largely focused on liberal opinion programming and criticism of conservative ideology. Licht, who was named Zucker’s successor, hopes to put an emphasis back on “news.” 

The insider, who is familiar with Licht’s thinking, said the new boss is in the midst of a “listening tour” and hasn’t reached a conclusion on any programming decisions aside from the previously announced decision to “re-imagine” CNN’s morning show “New Day” later this year. 

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Licht has already toned down the network’s use of the “Breaking News” on-screen graphic that became commonplace during the previous regime. 

New CNN boss Chris Licht ‘determined to tamp down spectacle’ as he evaluates who should stick around: insider

Jeff Zucker (left) was replaced by recently appointed CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht (right).
(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Fox News Digital has also learned that Licht recently informed staffers that he wasn’t thrilled with CNN anchors and pundits regularly referring to former-President Trump’s 2020 election claims as the “Big Lie,” which is frequently invoked by on-air personalities like Stelter, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper and Jim Acosta.

Licht believes it “sounds more like a hashtag or bumper sticker” and is not precise for cable news audiences. However, he did not issue a mandate or formal guidance to stop using the term, according to the insider. 

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Licht’s brief tenure has already seen a handful of Zucker-era executives depart, including Andrew Morse, who oversaw the launch of CNN’s failed streaming service, CNN+. Licht pulled the plug on CNN+ in April, mere weeks after the costly streaming service was launched.  

New CNN boss Chris Licht ‘determined to tamp down spectacle’ as he evaluates who should stick around: insider

Former CNN boss Jeff Zucker helped shift the network away from straight news. 
(ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, CNN averaged only 393,000 total viewers for its smallest weekday audience since Nov. 2, 2015, excluding Thanksgiving Day. The network also had its least-viewed, non-Thanksgiving weekday during the hours of 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. when CNN’s daytime lineup managed only 489,000 average viewers. It was CNN’s worst performance in that category since Nov. 3, 2015. 

Tuesday’s bleak performance came 48 hours after Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” had its lowest-rated episode since September 2019 on Sunday with just 580,000 viewers. 

All data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research. 

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