The expected purge of CNN staff has come down, with the question remaining just how many will be affected.
The not-at-all shocking but still jarring word was handed down today that the cable news fixture CNN would experience a raft of job cuts beginning today. The network’s media correspondent Oliver Darcy sent out notice of the internal memo from recently appointed CEO Chris Licht that declared his announced intention of laying off a portion of the workforce will now begin this week.
CNN boss Chris Licht informs employees in an all-staff note that layoffs are underway.
Licht says those being notified today are largely paid contributors and then tomorrow CNN "will notify impacted employees."
Licht will then provide an update to staff afterward. pic.twitter.com/nD0pt9Ruwj
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) November 30, 2022
Since stepping into a leadership role early this year, a result of the ATT-Warner-Discovery merger becoming finalized, Licht has made it known he was revamping the network in a number of ways. CNN has been flagging in the ratings for years now and his intention has been established as a two-pronged focus; repairing the ratings stature and revenue stream, and he intends to bring the news coverage to a more centrist focus.
The latter effort has been taking place in the fashion of letting go of some prominent names as well as reshaping the broadcast schedule. Already since the Warner-Discovery takeover, we have seen the departures of Chris Cuomo, Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Toobin, and John Harwood, as well as the removal of former network head Jeff Zucker. Other names have been moved across the broadcast schedule as the retooling of the network commences, what Licht has described as “a recalibrated reporting strategy.”
This new decision is an extension of the corporate repair work as he sees needed, as he has readied the network for some time of impending layoffs. Today will see paid contributors being let go from their contracts, and Thursday is expected to see established employees being notified they are being let go. The question remains about the breadth and scope of these layoffs, with the expectation of hundreds being affected this week, with those let go by year’s end reaching as high as 1,000 being speculated.
Today’s announcement only adds to the mounting cloud hanging over the network throughout this year. Since the 2020 elections, CNN has experienced perpetual viewer erosion. (This drop in ratings initially affected all news networks, but in the interim Fox News has mostly recovered and MSNBC hit a basement of sorts with some minimal recovery.) The shakeup at the top executive levels was followed by the dismissal of prominent talent, and a continued miasma of plans ahead.
Of course, the largest drama seen this year surrounded the implosion of the rollout of the new streaming venture, CNN+, which was shuttered after only one month of existence. The $300 million experiment was set in motion ahead of the W-D takeover and the new management was handcuffed from addressing its formulation until the government approved the corporate merger. With meager interest and dismal subscription numbers, Licht and his management decided to cut losses immediately rather than endure a lengthy loss-leader process.
Licht has stated he was hesitant to do a mass firing of on-air talent in his effort to recalibrate the network focus, so it will be interesting to see how many, if any, other prominent names will be included in the employment purge in the coming days and weeks. What is becoming clear is that the new ownership intends to go forward with significant alterations to the structure of CNN. What remains to be revealed is if this continues to be a remodeling project or – more likely – a complete rebuild of the once forceful name in cable network news.