Licht’s Big Number

Chris Licht’s inaugural year running CNN has involved a confection of headaches, both macroeconomic and small.
Chris Licht’s inaugural year running CNN has involved a confection of headaches, both macroeconomic and small. Photo: Chris Delmas / AFP
Dylan Byers
February 8, 2023

It’s fair to say that Chris Licht, the beleaguered chairman and C.E.O. of CNN, is overdue for a lucky bounce, a fact that even his staunchest supporters would concede. His inaugural year running the network has involved a confection of headaches both macroeconomic and small, inevitable and self-made, marred by a $100-million-plus budget shortfall, mass layoffs and cuts, the nuking of CNN+, internal vexation about his management style, a Jake Tapper primetime snafu and some of the worst ratings in the network’s 42-year-history. 

And it didn’t help that the Fed’s interest rate journey threw a few monkey wrenches in David Zaslav’s debt-reducing integration process at Warner Bros Discovery. In moments of pique, CNN loyalists often ask themselves WWJZD: What would ousted president Jeff Zucker have done differently? A lot, presumably, but even Ted Turner could not have navigated CNN’s challenges without some errant bloodletting.