CNN CEO, Chris Licht, has appointed David Leavy as CNN’s new Chief Operating Officer (COO). Leavy is currently the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Warner Bros. Discovery and has worked closely with David Zaslav for over 15 years.
It is believed that the appointment will provide Zaslav with insight into what is happening at CNN. Licht has faced criticism from his employees due to falling ratings and questionable decision-making. One such decision was to air a Donald Trump town hall, which was criticized by reporters and staff for the production issues that arose during the broadcast. Despite the backlash, Licht stood behind his decision to air the town hall.
The hiring of Leavy could be interpreted as a proxy for Zaslav, and it’s suggested that there are few boundaries or secrets between Licht and Zaslav. The appointment was Licht’s idea, not Zaslav’s, and Leavy had been helping Licht find a suitable COO for CNN. Initially, CNN had offered the role to a female news executive, but Licht wanted someone to start immediately, and that executive was still under contract in her current position. When that fell through, Leavy suggested he may be a fit for the job. Both Licht and Leavy then went to Zaslav with the idea, and he signed off on the appointment.
Impact of the Appointment
Leavy’s hiring will enable Licht to focus more on programming and editorial strategy and less on logistics. Leavy is familiar with executives and operations across Warner Bros. Discovery and will now lead CNN’s marketing, public relations, advertising sales, facilities, and other logistics.
Chris Marlin, CNN’s Head of Strategy and Business Operations, will now focus on generating alternative revenue streams for the network outside of television. Such opportunities include potential partnerships or sponsorships.
Licht’s background is in show producing, with previous roles running MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He has made significant changes to CNN’s TV programming, including building a new morning show and primetime lineup. The early results have been discouraging, with CNN’s audience falling 16% in May from April in terms of both total primetime viewers and among adults aged 25-54, a prized demographic for advertisers, according to Nielsen data. Average daytime viewership fell 13% overall and 17% among adults aged 25-54.
Leavy will be based in Washington, D.C., near where his family lives and will have no input on the editorial side of CNN. While Zaslav and Licht aren’t thrilled with CNN’s ratings, they’re linked together charting the go-forward strategy of CNN. Leavy’s appointment only underlines that connection.
CNN fired Don Lemon in April and is moving Kaitlin Collins to its 9 p.m. primetime slot. Both anchors were part of Licht’s original morning show, which lasted less than a year. CNN’s overall and primetime viewership trailed both Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen. Fox News Channel averaged 1.09 million total daytime viewers and 1.42 million total primetime viewers in May. MSNBC averaged 736,000 daytime viewers and 1.16 million primetime watchers. CNN averaged just 416,000 in day and 494,000 in primetime.
The appointment of David Leavy as CNN’s new COO will enable Chris Licht to focus more on programming and editorial strategy and less on logistics. The move will provide David Zaslav with insight into what is happening at CNN and underlines the connection between him and Licht. While CNN’s ratings have fallen, Zaslav and Licht are working together to chart the go-forward strategy of CNN.