New CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht addressed the network’s ratings-challenged morning show on Wednesday during the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront event at New York City’s Hulu Theater, and he didn’t sound thrilled with the status quo of the morning program he inherited.
“Here are some specifics we are planning for the fall. First, we will reimagine our morning show, leveraging our correspondents and unmatched resources in the U.S. and around the world to provide news that viewers need to know as they start their day,” Licht said during the presentation to advertisers.
“I’m going to be honest here. We are seeking to be a disruptor of the broadcast morning shows in this space, and we believe we have the people and resources who can do it,” Licht added before pivoting to other programs.
Licht didn’t refer to the morning show by its current name during the announcement but stopped short of providing details of the “reimagined” program. He is expected to work with “New Day” executive producer Eric Hall to determine how CNN’s morning lineup can be more successful going forward.
When Licht first addressed CNN staffers after being tabbed to replace Jeff Zucker, who was forced to resign earlier this year, he suggested some of the network’s beleaguered programs wouldn’t stick around much longer.
“Together, we will double down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not,” he wrote in a memo to CNN employees.
“New Day” is among the CNN programs that haven’t been “working well,” as the morning offering has failed to resonate with viewers since its 2013 launch.
“New Day” has been one of CNN’s least-watched programs this month and has shed 31% of its April audience. It’s averaged a dismal 395,000 viewers in May to rank as the No. 41 cable news program, despite its desirable timeslot.
“New Day” has also been dreadful among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54, averaging only 85,000 viewers for a 35% drop from last month alone.
CNN did not immediately respond to a series of questions, including whether the retooled morning show would keep the “New Day” branding and whether current hosts John Berman and Brianna Keilar would be part of it.
“New Day” was the brainchild of Zucker, who rose to prominence overseeing NBC’s “Today” during the Matt Lauer era and quickly attempted to replicate the morning success at CNN.”
Zucker took over CNN in January 2013 and created “New Day” with hand-picked anchors Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira. It debuted that June with hopes it would emerge as a flagship morning program akin to NBC’s highly successful “Today,” but with edginess that could only happen on cable. Broadcast production trade publications fawned over the elaborate set design, and CNN even recruited pop music superstar Alicia Keys to perform a promo jingle ahead of its premiere.
However, Zucker’s morning show success didn’t repeat itself and “New Day,” which has never managed to averaged even 700,000 viewers for a year, settled for an average audience of only 471,000 during the first quarter of 2022. Viewership has continued to slide, with only 418,000 people tuning in each morning so far during the second quarter and only 388,000 last week.
Along the way, “New Day” has become infamous for ratings issues and lineup changes. Cuomo, Bolduan and Pereira have been gone from the program for the years. Longtime co-anchor Alisyn Camerota was replaced last year by the outspokenly liberal Keilar, who now shares the anchor desk with Berman.
Licht’s re-imagining of Keilar and Berman’s morning program was vague, but it appears certain that changes are looming.
Berman, who moved to the anchor chair when Cuomo was promoted to primetime by Zucker, is a favorite of CNN rank-and-file staffers. He regularly fills in for Anderson Cooper’s “AC 360,” an indication that network honchos see him as a versatile anchor capable of stepping into other roles.
Keilar, on the other hand, has developed a reputation for conducting combative interviews with conservatives and non-White Republicans that have scolded her for talking down to them. Last year, she irked Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., during an interview about the Congressional Black Caucus snubbing him despite his vocal interest in joining the group of Black lawmakers by fixating on his past support for former President Trump.
“The people at CNN, they have an agenda, they have a political agenda. Let’s be very clear,” Donalds told Fox News Digital last year when asked about the interview.
Keilar also faced criticism for attacking Nikki Haley – an Indian-American – when the former United Nations ambassador declared “America is not a racist country.” Keilar dedicated an entire monologue in her “Roll the Tape” segment to rebuking Haley’s defense of America.
Republican Senate candidate T.W. Shannon told Fox News Digital last month that he’s unsure Licht could restore CNN’s journalistic credibility because of the way Keilar treated him during a 2021 interview. Shannon, who is Black, also appeared on “New Day” and was scolded by Keilar over his past support of Trump.
“I’ve never been more disrespected, or talked down to, and told why I was oppressed and why I should feel oppressed in America,” Shannon explained. “A lot of African Americans refuse to go on that show, and I’m one of them. I would never go on her show again. CNN should be ashamed and embarrassed for allowing her to spew her hatred.”
Licht is no stranger to morning programs, as he was the founding executive producer of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and later oversaw the launch of “CBS This Morning.” He has claimed that CNN will distance itself from the left-leaning, advocacy programming that was established under Zucker.
Ratings data courtesy of Nielsen Media Research.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.