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CNN employees brace for layoffs after network chief warns of ‘unsettling’ changes ahead

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business


That’s the sort of news CNN staffers had delivered to their inboxes at 1pm ET on Wednesday when network boss Chris Licht candidly informed them that sweeping changes are imminent. In other words, brace for layoffs by the end of the year.

Licht, who has been conducting a business review of CNN for six months, said in a memo that he had identified areas where changes will be made. In addition, he noted that there is “widespread concern over the global economic outlook” and said that “we must factor that risk into our long-term planning.”

“All this together will mean noticeable change to this organization,” Licht said in a memo. “That, by definition, is unsettling. These changes will not be easy because they will affect people, budgets, and projects.”

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Licht’s memo came hours after CNBC’s Alex Sherman published a deep-dive examining the future of CNN. Sherman’s story, which Licht went on the record for, stated that job cuts will hit the news organization.

“Licht’s review is part of a larger effort spearheaded by [Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav], who has told division heads throughout the company to rethink their units and find ways to cut costs,” Sherman reported, adding that “more than 1,000 people will be laid off” this year by WBD, CNN’s parent company. In addition to the economic headwinds every company is facing, Zaslav has promised Wall Street he will find $3 billion in savings in the combined organization.

CNN is, of course, not the only media company aiming to tighten the belt and lean itself out amid the uncertainty and a downturn in the advertising market. As one former television executive told CNN, “The ad market will plummet in a recession” and “ratings declines aren’t helping.”

For now, staffers will have to wait a little while longer to learn who will be leaving the network. Licht said in his memo that he aims to have the changes implemented by end of year so that 2023 can start on a strong foot. He stressed that when CNN exits the process it will “still be the largest, most-respected newsgathering organization in the world.”

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

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