CNN is set to introduce significant changes to its morning lineup, signaling the end of an era for “CNN This Morning” and reshuffling key personnel into new roles. The network’s strategy, spearheaded by new CEO Mark Thompson, aims to revitalize its viewership by reimagining its morning segment, which has struggled to maintain its audience in the fiercely competitive news landscape.
The revamp marks the conclusion of “CNN This Morning,” a project launched under the stewardship of former CNN chief Chris Licht, featuring a high-profile trio of anchors: Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon, and Kaitlan Collins. Despite its ambitious beginnings, the show faced challenges, including on-air tensions and a decline in viewer numbers, leading to significant changes in its anchor lineup and ultimately, its discontinuation.
Licht also publicly criticized Lemon following his controversial remarks last year that presidential candidate Nikki Haley was “beyond her prime” because of her age.
Poppy Harlow and Phil Mattingly, who have been at the forefront of “CNN This Morning,” are set to transition into new roles within the network. Meanwhile, Kasie Hunt, previously anchoring the early 5 a.m. slot, will lead a condensed version of the morning show, now scheduled from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Following the restructured morning segment, “CNN News Central” will take over the 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. slot, replacing the bulk of the old “CNN This Morning” programming.
Jim Acosta, known for his weekend programming, will transition to weekdays, hosting “CNN Newsroom” at 10 a.m., further bolstering the network’s daytime lineup. Additionally, “The Bulletin with Pamela Brown” is set to launch in the spring at 11 a.m., with Wolf Blitzer temporarily filling in until Brown returns from maternity leave.
The changes extend beyond on-air talent, affecting production teams as well. The New York-based team responsible for “CNN This Morning” will be disbanded, with CNN encouraging affected staff to apply for new roles within the company, particularly in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
The sweeping changes come at a critical time for CNN, which has seen its viewership decline since the peak of the Trump administration. The network ended 2023 with its lowest total viewers since 2014 and the lowest audience ever in the younger demographic. By reimagining its morning lineup and introducing fresh programming, CNN aims to recapture its audience and establish a stronger foothold in the competitive news market.
Mark Thompson has been overseeing the consolidation of all news-gathering operations into a unified division, catering to CNN’s television, streaming, and digital platforms. The initiative has been a key part of a wider strategy aimed at modernizing CNN and exploring new revenue streams, possibly through subscription models. However, Thompson is still considering whether subscriptions are the optimal approach for CNN.
Thompson’s overarching goal is to rejuvenate CNN by embracing digital innovation and aligning with the evolving media consumption habits, especially of younger demographics. “We need to recapture some of the swagger and innovation of the early CNN,” Thompson said in a memo earlier in January. “It’s time for a new revolution.”
“Change is essential if we’re to secure this great news company’s future. It brings uncertainty – that I’m afraid is inevitable – but in my experience, it’s also often rich in personal and shared opportunity.” He encouraged his team with a positive outlook, asserting, “Let’s build with confidence. Let’s fulfill our mission. Let’s learn some new tricks. Let’s look after each other. Let’s have some fun.”
Thompson also acknowledged the need for CNN to evolve in its digital strategy, admitting the network has been “slow to respond to the challenge,” posed by the decline in traditional TV viewership.
“The CNN of today is no longer that buccaneering outsider but a tenured incumbent.” He recognized the network’s existing strengths, including its impactful coverage of major news, its talented team, and its status as one of the world’s most visited news websites. However, he also noted a significant area of concern, stating, “But, despite all these strengths, there’s currently too little innovation and risk-taking.”
As CNN embarks on this new chapter, the network faces the challenge of not only attracting viewers back to its morning segment but also maintaining their interest throughout the day.