Earlier this week, I reported that Chris Licht, the beleaguered chairman and C.E.O. of CNN, has been pitching a number of on-air talents from the worlds of news, entertainment, sports and comedy about hosting weekly, news-oriented prime time shows on his network—a move that might ostensibly reverse his fortunes, and those of CNN, after an early tenure beset by layoffs, budget cuts, ratings declines, failed programming experiments, sapped morale and bad press. Licht’s plan, I’ve been told, is to thread together a rotating lineup of star-helmed shows, interspersed with regular programming and some big special events, into a programming patchwork that eschews the traditional one-host, five-nights-a-week strategy for something more akin to broadcast entertainment: one lineup on Mondays, another on Tuesdays, and so on.
It sounds risky, but at this point every risk may be worth taking. Furthermore, risks are required and preferable in an industry where the status quo has been fundamentally broken for the better part of a decade, despite the warm bath of the Trump boom. CNN’s viewership has been at record lows since Licht took over, a fact that was driven home this week after the network came in last behind Fox, MSNBC, and the big three broadcast networks for coverage of Biden’s State of the Union address.