CNN chief Chris Licht tells staff to brace for budget cuts

Chris Licht attends The Hollywood Reporter's annual Most Powerful People in Media reception on April 11, 2019.
Chris Licht attends the Hollywood Reporter’s 2019 Most Powerful People in Media cocktail reception in New York.
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

After Warner Bros. Discovery announced it will incur more than $1 billion in downsizing costs, CNN chief Chris Licht told staff at the news network to prepare for cutbacks.

In a memo sent Tuesday, Licht said CNN is looking at ways to reduce costs and “will mean noticeable change to the organization. That by definition is unsettling and will affect people, budgets and projects.”

The executive who officially took over CNN in April said the reductions will be enacted by the end of the year.


Licht’s memo did not go into the specifics regarding the cuts, but said his senior staff “will be strategic in this process and will minimize the impact on our core newsgathering operation and Digital, both of which have already executed smart changes.”

Licht will take over the news organization in May after Discovery completes its acquisition of CNN parent WarnerMedia.

Feb. 28, 2022

On Monday, a Security and Exchange Commission filing by CNN parent Warner Bros. Discovery warned of major costs associated with shrinking the company, including the cancellation of programs and movies and providing severance packages for laid-off employees.

Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav has made it clear to Wall Street that the company will be aggressive in cost-savings to achieve its financial goals.

Telecommunications giant AT&T sold its entertainment and media portfolio, including HBO, the Warner Bros. film and TV studio, CNN, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, among other properties, to Discovery in April.

Since April, the company has let hundreds of employees go through multiple rounds of layoffs. In August, about 70 people were cut from its crown jewel, HBO — 14% of its staff. Earlier this month, more than 80 workers were let go from the Warner Bros. TV studio. Cuts are expected at the film studio next month.


While CNN remains highly profitable — especially for a news organization — it faces pressure from declining subscription fees as consumers move away from pay TV packages.

Licht has only tinkered with programming changes so far, giving Washington anchor Jake Tapper a prime-time hour through the mid-terms, followed by a roundtable-type show with legal analyst Laura Coates and former afternoon anchor Alisyn Camerota. Neither entry has improved the network’s ratings.

The first major initiative under Licht — a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins — is set to debut on Nov. 1.