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Life After Licht Isn’t a Picnic

CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins in 2018. The network’s primetime strategy remains tethered to Chris Licht’s decision to install Collins—an impressive political correspondent, but an inexperienced anchor—as the 9 p.m. host.
CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins in 2018. The network’s primetime strategy remains tethered to Chris Licht’s decision to install Collins—an impressive political correspondent, but an inexperienced anchor—as the 9 p.m. host. Photo: Jabin Botsford/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
July 23, 2023

In less than nine months—on April 8, 2024, to be exact—the tax statute prohibiting David Zaslav from offloading Warner Bros. Discovery assets will be lifted and he will be free, should he and his board so desire, to pursue a sale of CNN—a move that seems increasingly likely in light of Warner Bros. Discovery’s $45-billion net debt load; the downward trajectory of the news network’s revenues; the immense headaches it seems to create for its owners; and the general understanding, articulated most recently and brazenly by Bob Iger in Sun Valley, that declining linear assets are no longer core to large media businesses in this everything-is-on-the-table era. 

And there is an added incentive, too, sui generis to CNN. If you believe—as most high-level media insiders do—that Zaslav is ultimately positioning WBD for a homecoming tie-up with NBCUniversal, it might make sense to offload CNN rather than attempt to integrate it with the NBC News Group, which would trigger all kinds of F.T.C. headaches, all of which could be deftly avoided by a strategic it’s-not-you, it’s me transaction.