CNN chief outlines changes to network after layoffs, including ending live programming on HLN

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CNN Business

CNN on Thursday carried out massive layoffs and implemented a series of changes that impacted several divisions of the news organization, including the end of live programming on HLN, the company’s chief executive said. , Chris Licht, in a memo to employees.

“The changes we are making today are necessary and will make us stronger and better positioned to place big bets in the future without fear of failure,” Licht wrote in his memo.

The layoffs, which began Wednesday and were expected to affect hundreds of employees, were largely complete by Thursday afternoon. A CNN spokesperson declined to say how many employees were laid off, but the cuts targeted several areas of the company, including some on-air talent and members of management.

The series of changes, which came after Licht led a months-long review of CNN’s operations after taking over as network helm in May, included the end of live programming on longtime sister channel HLN. from CNN. Licht said that starting Dec. 6, CNN “will no longer be producing live programming for HLN.”

HLN will instead simulcast “CNN This Morning” and, Licht said, HLN’s crime programming will transition to Kathleen Finch, head of programming at Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN.

“I want to take a moment to thank Robin Meade — she’s not only an exceptionally popular presenter, but also one of the longest-serving morning hosts in history,” Licht wrote in her memo. “I know she and the other HLN talents will be missed by the HLN audience.”

Licht said the network is “changing our approach to paid contributors as well,” after cutting itself off from its stable of commentators on Wednesday.

“In some areas we will rely more on our CNN reporters,” Licht wrote. “Overall, we will engage contributors who are subject matter experts who broaden and diversify the viewpoints we bring to our audience.”

Licht said other changes included CNN International “reorganizing some of its teams and offices.” And he said, effective immediately, CNN International’s 5 p.m. ET show “will be replaced by a simulcast of CNN US for that half hour.”

CNN en Español, Licht said, will strive to diversify its audience beyond news. Licht said CNN will still produce news for the channel, but will “seek to develop a much more robust digital platform for CNNE with the goal of launching it in 2024.”

Licht also announced that several other divisions were being restructured, including news gathering, operations, research, creative marketing and programming in the United States.

When the layoffs began on Wednesday, Licht described the process as a “punch” for the network, telling employees in a memo that “it is incredibly difficult to say goodbye to a CNN team member. , let alone many.”

Employees at the company have been anxiously preparing for the layoffs since Licht informed them last month that “troubling” changes awaited them.

The layoffs come as media companies are battered by brutal economic headwinds that have hit the advertising industry. Licht noted in October, when he signaled that major cuts were coming, that there was “widespread concern about the global economic outlook” and that CNN “must consider this risk in [its] long term planning.

Other media organizations have also cut costs as they strive to position themselves as best they can in the stormy economic climate. Disney said last week the company needed to restructure, and AMC Networks said Tuesday it would cut 20% of its workforce. Social media companies such as Meta, which also rely on ad revenue, have also made layoffs in recent months.

CNN, which still posts hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, has been spared the cuts that have wreaked havoc on the industry during the pandemic. Prior to this year, the last significant cuts to the organization date back to 2018, when less than 50 people lost their jobs as the company restructured its digital business.

The cuts to the organization also come after CNN’s former parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery earlier this year, creating a media juggernaut laden with billions of dollars in debt and a need to cut costs at all levels. levels. The merger had just been completed in April when the company announced it was shutting down the CNN+ streaming service a month after its launch.

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, the company that was created when WarnerMedia and Discovery became one, promised investors it would find more than $3 billion in savings in the combined organization.

After Licht took over as head of CNN, he conducted a review of the company for several months. That review led him to identify changes that should be made, Licht said in October. Some of these changes have already been implemented, as CNN has made small cuts to parts of its business over the past few months.

“Our goal throughout the strategic review process has been to better align our people, processes and resources with our future priorities, strengthen our ability to fulfill CNN’s core journalistic mission, and enable us to innovate in years to come,” Licht said in his Thursday. note. “At the highest level, the goal is to direct our resources to better serve and grow audiences for our core programs and news products.”

“To achieve these goals, we will reduce vacancies, reinvent our workflows, and align our people, investments and focus around three key strategic priorities: programming, newsgathering and digital,” added Light. “All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business.”

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