CNN gets new chief operating officer amid ratings decline

Former President Trump is interviewed by Kaitlan Collins on CNN.
CNN faced a viewer exodus after its May 10 town hall with former President Trump, moderated by Kaitlan Collins.
(John Nowak)

CNN has faced audience losses and is struggling to forge a new identity under parent company Warner Bros. Discovery during the past year.

Now the corporate owner is putting one of its own in the second-in-command position at the cable news network. CNN announced Thursday that David Leavy will take on the new role, putting him in charge of business, operational and promotional activities across CNN Worldwide.

Leavy, previously chief corporate affairs officer at Warner Bros. Discovery, will report to CNN Chairman Chris Licht. Leavy is a veteran of Discovery Inc., the firm that merged with WarnerMedia to become Warner Bros. Discovery, and is a lieutenant and close confidant of Chief Executive David Zaslav.


“David’s deep operational experience, institutional knowledge and key industry relationships perfectly complements the strengths of our leadership team,” Licht said of Leavy in a statement.

The move is meant to let Licht focus on managing the network’s editorial direction and programming.

Leavy, who served as a press representative in the Clinton administration, is a seasoned cable industry veteran but has no experience in the news business.

He is one of Zaslav’s most trusted aides and has a reputation for navigating thorny situations. At Discovery, he often served as a calm counterbalance to his boss’ shoot-from-the-hip style. His White House experience has given him an understanding of Washington politics.

Leavy moves to CNN as it faces a steep decline in the ratings, including a viewer exodus that followed its poorly-received May 10 town hall with former President Trump, who is pursuing the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

The town hall format was ridiculed internally and externally, as Trump was able to play to cheering supporters in the audience and deliver falsehoods at a faster rate than moderator Kaitlan Collins could fact-check.


CNN chief Chris Licht defends Trump’s interview with anchor Kaitlan Collins, which was the Republican candidate’s first sit-down on the network since 2016.

May 11, 2023

Veteran CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour publicly denounced the decision to give Trump such a forum, a stance that was supported by her colleagues on social media.

Trump’s appearance was part of an ongoing effort by CNN to lure back conservative and Republican voters. Zaslav has said the network leaned too much into progressive advocacy under its previous leader Jeff Zucker, whom Licht replaced in April 2022.

But the programming moves made by Licht, a successful producer of morning news programs at MSNBC and CBS, have failed to connect with viewers. A new morning show launched in December remains at the bottom of the cable news ratings. The best-known anchor assigned to the program, Don Lemon, was fired after backlash over sexist remarks he delivered on air.

Licht has been slow in remaking a prime-time lineup that has fallen behind the small right-wing outlet Newsmax on some nights, and trails Fox News and MSNBC in the 25 to 54 age group coveted by advertisers, according to Nielsen data.

The network has said a programming revamp is coming this fall, with Collins taking over the 9 p.m. Eastern slot as host. The network is also launching a weekly talk show teaming “CBS Mornings” host Gayle King with Charles Barkley.

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.