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Chris Licht Foreshadows CNN Layoffs in Memo to Staff

CNN chief says there will be "noticeable change to this organization" over the "next several weeks."

Chris Licht - CNN

CNN CEO Chris Licht

Getty Images

CNN CEO Chris Licht is preparing his staff for a shakeup (read: layoffs). On Wednesday, Licht sent out a memo to employees, warning about macroeconomic factors impacting his news organization.

“There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning,” Licht wrote in the memo, which IndieWire obtained. “All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”

CNN is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, which is under a particular (and mostly self-appointed) edict to majorly cut costs. Part of that mission has been accomplished by significant staff reductions elsewhere. Earlier this month, Warner Bros. Television Group laid off 125 employees. And about a month before that round of cuts, Warner Bros. Discovery reduced its overall headcount by approximately 100 staffers. There have been other casualties, including the extremely short-lived CNN+.

And then there are content cuts. On Tuesday, Warner Bros. Discovery revealed via an SEC filing it was writing down between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in content in the third quarter alone. And, of course, there was the “Batgirl” scrubbing and the great HBO Max archives purge.

So now it’s CNN’s turn. But the content there won’t suffer, Licht promised.

“I will not allow these changes to affect our position as the world’s leading news source, and we will continue to invest in growth areas,” Licht wrote. “When we conclude this process, CNN will still be the largest, most-respected newsgathering organization in the world. We will continue to cover any story, anywhere, any time—with more resources than anyone else. Full stop.”

But don’t stop: Read Licht’s full note to staff below.

CNN+ launched on March 29, 2022.

CNN+ launched on March 29, 2022.

Courtesy of CNN

To my CNN colleagues,

I have spent the last six months meeting so many of you and diving deep into every corner of the company to understand how you do the incredible work CNN produces every day, how we’re structured, and defining our top priorities. As many of you know, I have also spent much of that time doing formal business reviews with senior staff to identify areas where we should make changes, investments, and reductions to match our future priorities.

We have already begun working toward CNN’s future, implementing a strategy that puts our journalism first and grows our digital stronghold. We restructured our digital team and are investing significantly in the product. We combined our newsgathering operations across linear and digital to ensure we can bring our full reporting firepower to any platform we are on. We are beginning to reimagine our morning and primetime lineups, officially launching our new morning show next week. We’ve started building our Sunday night long-form program. We have also begun to reduce or eliminate areas that aren’t core to our mission. All these moves are designed to keep CNN essential across platforms to ensure that wherever and however people get their news, they must have CNN.

There is a lot more to be done. I am writing to you today to say that over the next several weeks, that work will accelerate. There is widespread concern over the global economic outlook, and we must factor that risk into our long-term planning. All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization. That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.

We 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. Let me be clear: I will not allow these changes to affect our position as the world’s leading news source, and we will continue to invest in growth areas. When we conclude this process, CNN will still be the largest, most-respected newsgathering organization in the world. We will continue to cover any story, anywhere, any time—with more resources than anyone else. Full stop.

Our aim is to have most of these decisions made by the end of the year so we can start 2023 feeling settled and prepared for the future. We will send updates as I have them, and I plan to hold town hall meetings in both November and December.

When we emerge on the other side, CNN will be a stronger, more nimble organization, ready to weather whatever the global economy throws at us and to grow into the future.

Chris

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