Executives at CNN’s parent company are struggling to set a new direction for the network amid declining viewership and the lowest profits in years, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
With former President Donald Trump mostly out of the political picture, CNN has struggled to retain an audience that tuned in for a reliable stream of partisan content directed against Trump.
It has had an average primetime viewership of 639,000 this quarter, a 27 percent drop from a year ago.
The network’s ratings trail even those of MSNBC, which itself has seen a decline in primetime viewership of 23 percent, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, Fox News — the only large media company in the United States generally critical of President Joe Biden — has increased its viewership, with a primetime increase of 1 percent relative to 2021.
Executives now expect CNN to make a profit of $950 million this year, well short of the original goal of $1.1 billion, the Times reported.
That would be the network’s lowest yearly profit since before the network reinvented itself with 24/7 criticism of Trump in 2016.
Executives of the media company Discovery have sought to set a new course for CNN after merging with the network’s former parent company, WarnerMedia, earlier this year.
Some of the network’s most partisan commentators, such as Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta, are on shaky ground, according to a report in June.
Chris Licht, an experienced television news executive appointed as CNN’s chairman after the departure of Jeff Zucker, has faced questions about his long-term plans for the network.
Some of Licht’s advisers have suggested that CNN sell sponsorships to tech corporations and other advertisers, potentially jeopardizing the network’s claims of editorial independence free of corporate influences, the Times reported.
CNN also is considering expanding its operations in China, a country where freedom of speech is severely curtailed by the communist government.
The collapse of failed streaming service CNN+ has taken a chunk out of the network’s profits. Some personalities the company hired for the service came at a significant expense.
The Times said the network “finds itself facing big questions about how it can continue to expand its business with its moonshot streaming service dead and the traditional TV business in structural decline.”
Warner Bros. Discovery could implement wide-ranging cuts at CNN if the network’s bottom line doesn’t improve.
Licht emphasized at a recent meeting that the network wasn’t considering job layoffs.
“No one has said to me, ‘You’re going to have to go cut this,’” he told employees, according to the Times.
“I think there’s an acute understanding that they don’t know our business,” Licht said of Warner Bros. Discovery executives.
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