CBS’ Chris Licht set to be named new CNN chief

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS executive Chris Licht, who currently runs Stephen Colbert’s late-night show after helping create two news programs, is set to become CNN’s new president, replacing Jeff Zucker.

Licht will be appointed to the post next week, according to an executive familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on the staff. The selection was first announced on Saturday by the Puck website. He could not take over until the deal giving CNN new ownership of the company is approved by the federal government, expected in early spring.

The new chef is executive vice president of special programming at CBS. Before becoming an executive producer at Colbert’s “Late Show” in 2016, guiding him to the top of the ratings, Licht aired “CBS This Morning”, the network’s morning news show.

Before joining CBS in 2012, he was the senior behind-the-scenes executive on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” during its formative years.

There was no immediate comment from a representative of WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company.

Licht’s choice was made by David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, which is expected to take over WarnerMedia soon under a corporate deal pending approval.

Zucker was kicked out of his job as CNN chief earlier this month for breaking company rules by not telling his superiors about a romantic relationship with Allison Gollust, a top marketing executive at CNN. Gollust was later kicked out herself.

Zucker was a hands-on executive who guided CNN through years of being the target of criticism from former President Donald Trump, and many of his employees were intensely loyal.

One of Licht’s top priorities will be finding a permanent replacement for Chris Cuomo, once CNN’s most popular prime-time host. Cuomo was fired in December, when the extent of her efforts to help her brother, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, fight sexual misconduct charges came to light.

During Zucker’s tenure, several CNN personalities grew more opinionated on the air, and there were discussions about whether a new chief executive would try to reset things.

Licht, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Saturday, took over backstage at Colbert’s show as he floundered. He rose to the top late in the evening, largely behind Colbert’s biting attacks on Trump.

He is also expected to lead the introduction of paid streaming service CNN+ this spring. The network has been busy hiring new people for CNN+, including former Fox News host Chris Wallace.

CNN’s television network, like other outlets, has waned in popularity since the 2020 election sent ratings soaring. But he showed his depth as a news agency last week with his coverage of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which drew praise from Zaslav in an earnings call last week.

“It becomes very clear when you travel around the world and watch other news channels where people sit behind desks and give their opinion on what’s going on, there’s a news network that’s on the field with journalists wearing bulletproof vests and helmets doing what journalists do best, which is fighting to tell the truth in dangerous places,” said Zaslav, an executive at NBC News before taking over at Discovery.

“It’s a proud moment for us to see what’s going on there,” he said.

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