Last night, I reported that Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav had zeroed in on his choice for the next President of CNN. I also reported that star executive producer Chris Licht, formerly of Morning Joe and CBS This Morning, and now the person in charge of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, had emerged as a top contender for the position formerly occupied by Jeff Zucker. I can now report, based on conversations with sources who have spoken directly with Zaslav, that Licht is indeed the person who Zaslav has selected to run CNN.
Licht will run CNN as head of news for Warner Bros. Discovery, a source familiar with the matter said. Unlike Zucker, his purview will not extend to sports. Licht has a deal with CBS that expires in April, according to people familiar with the matter, but his hiring is likely to be announced at, or ahead of, a special Discovery shareholders meeting on March 11. (Zaslav and a spokesperson for Discovery did not respond to a request for comment. Licht also did not respond to a request for comment.)
There are a couple of immediately interesting elements to this development. First, on some level, it makes sense. As I detailed last night, the other names in the mix all had some notable flaws. Ben Sherwood, the former head of ABC TV and ABC News, had by far the most experience, but had detractors among many of the former ABC executives that now populate CNN’s top tier, including interim chief and programming whiz Amy Entelis and newsgathering SVP Virginia Moseley. The most frequently cited internal candidate, Andrew Morse, had digital chops and insight into the day-to-day but wasn’t seen as capable of filling Zucker’s shoes as a master programmer and business leader. (Also, let’s be honest, with the notable exception of Casey Bloys at HBO, the internal candidate rarely gets the nod in these situations.)