In order to save money, the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed outlet is cutting into many of its operations and sending some employees home for good. One of them was Chris Cillizza. This is the result of broader cost controls that have continued at the parent company since it merged Discovery Communications with WarnerMedia, which will result in a smaller employee base and less original programming.
An ending to one of the nation’s longest-running morning programs is also included in the move, as well as paring back on the number of non-staff contributors utilized on air. But to a bevy of true-crime series, endless showings of “Forensic Files,” and “Morning Express with Robin Meade,” which features a host who has been at the network since 2001, HLN, the cable network once known as CNN Headline News, is a home for a long time, reported Variety.
CNN will be ousting the team that has produced “Morning Express With Robin Meade,” an A.M. program that has been around in several editions for more than two decades, as the company will cease to produce original shows for the network. And recently, the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed outlet terminated a number of popular correspondents and journalists from their company.
CNN CEO Chris Licht sent a memo to his staff, in which he said that the news operation “will be reducing open job positions, reimagining our workflows and aligning our staffing, investments and focus around three key strategic priorities: programming, newsgathering and digital. All decisions are designed to strengthen the core of our business.”
The CNN A.M. news program that takes up most of HLN’s daytime schedule, “Morning Express,” will be replaced with “CNN This Morning.” Under the aegis of Warner Bros. Discovery executive Kathleen Finch, the HLN’s true-crime programming will be placed and made more a part of the operations of the company’s ID cable network.
According to two people familiar with the matter, CNN typically operates with a staff of between 4,000 and 4,500, and among the staffers who have been let go are CNN correspondents Chris Cillizza, Martin Savidge, Alison Kosik, Alex Field, and Mary Ann Fox.
Since October, when Licht signaled a tougher operating environment and also indicated that he hoped to have cost cuts completed by the end of the year, the layoffs have been anticipated. A commitment to investors was made by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, that the company would cut $3 billion in costs after acquiring the assets of the company formerly known as WarnerMedia from AT&T. In a recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company indicated that it would have to spend between $1 billion and $1.5 billion to scrap programming already commissioned and pay out severance packages.
The company also expected to take write-downs of potentially more than $4 billion in pre-tax charges through 2022, as Warner Bros. Discovery said. In a format that ran throughout the day, HLN once served as a sort of “CNN2,” and featured a “wheel” of quick news segments, but recently it has gone through major transformations and has long been difficult to monetize. And rather than paying a separate carriage fee for its use, cable operators get it as part of a package with its flagship sibling.
HLN tried to court younger viewers not too long ago, trying everything from primetime movies to game shows, after featuring hours of court coverage. HLN also burnished crime documentary series under the aegis of CNN executive Ken Jautz in recent years and competed directly with cable networks like NBCUniversal’s Oxygen and Discovery’s Investigation Discovery, also known as ID. Jautz also tested a news-and-talk format that gave new hours to anchors like S.E. Cupp and Ashleigh Banfield.
While under Licht, HLN made some other moves, such as relying more heavily on experts in particular subjects than general contributors, expanding CNN’s Spanish-language outlet beyond news, cutting back or combining production staff for shows, and replacing an hour of international programming with a show from CNN’s U.S. schedule.