New CNN chief says changes at network ‘will not be easy’

CNN CEO Chris Licht sent a memo to staff on Wednesday announcing coming changes to personnel and department budgets over the next several weeks, which he said will “not be easy.”

In the memo shared by CNN media reporter Oliver DarcyLicht noted the changes he’s already made at the network, but said “there is a lot more to be done” amid economic uncertainty.

“There is a widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” Licht wrote. “All this together will mean a noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”

The news comes hours after CNBC reported Licht had concluded a business review of CNN and was prepared to announce his findings to staff.

According to CNBC, Licht is planning to gut parts of CNN that have become bloated.

Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN, announced in February the appointment of Licht, who officially took over CNN in April. Licht replaced former CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who resigned over a relationship with another executive at the network.

CNN has faced declining ratings and is on pace to drop below $1 billion in profit for the first time in years, The New York Times reported in August.

Since assuming the role, Licht has spearheaded multiple changes, including axing the streaming service CNN+, one of his first major moves. He also ended a program that sold historical footage from the network through non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.

And he has made major changes to the network’s new lineup, such as moving prime-time host Don Lemon to mornings, and trying out Jake Tapper in prime time.

Some of the changes have spurred chatter that corporate leaders are pushing the network to the right, though CNN has denied that.

In his memo, Licht said he has spent the last six months “diving deep into every corner of the company” and has “begun to reduce or eliminate areas that aren’t core to our mission.”

But Licht said he would “minimize the impact” of those changes and grow the company where it’s needed.

“Let me be clear: I will not allow these changes to affect our position as the world’s leading news source, and we will continue to invest in growth areas,” he wrote.

“When we emerge on the other side, CNN will be a stronger, more nimble organization, ready to weather whatever the global economy throws at us and to grow into the future.”