CNN is reportedly considering hiring a comedian to host one of its struggling prime time hours – the latest in a series of sweeping changes to the network under new CEO Chris Licht.
According to people familiar with the matter, the not-yet-named funnyman or woman would be tasked with filling the hallowed 9pm time slot, previously held by Chris Cuomo.
Brass at the famously progressive news network have reportedly floated names such as Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Arsenio Hall, and Jon Stewart, as candidates, to offer a nontraditional, late-night-esque take on the day’s news.
The rumored maneuver comes as the late-night sphere has been through a great deal of changes recently – and as CNN execs, led by Licht, have largely failed to fill the space left by Cuomo, who lost the gig more than a year ago after trying to help his brother Andrew Cuomo fight off a sexual harassment scandal.
CNN is reportedly considering hiring a comedian to host one of its struggling prime time hours – the latest in a series of sweeping changes to the network under CEO Chris Licht (pictured)
The showrunner previously hinted at a desire to sign Jon Stewart in an interview last year with the New York Times. Sources said Stewart is one of several comics lined up for the gig
The maneuver comes as somewhat disjointed from Licht’s previously aired plans for the network since taking the helm early last year, which included it moving away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Trump’s administration.
That said, the showrunner, who previously headed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, hinted at a desire to sign Stewart in an interview last year with the New York Times.
Currently under contract with Apple, the 60-year-old satirist seems like an unlikely option – though the stellar ratings he brought The Daily Show for 16 years has likely piqued Late Night expert Licht’s interests – especially when compared to ratings spawned by his successor Trevor Noah, and other more polarizing talking heads such as Colbert and former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee.
Speaking to The Times, Licht – who laid off hundreds of staffers last month including politics reporter Chris Cillizza – said he would love to bring on the former late night host, if possible.
Another, more promising prospect is Bill Maher, a more no-nonsense progressive who, despite his politics, manages to appeal to wider demographic than his more polarizing counterparts
Brass at the famously progressive news network have reportedly also floated names such as , Arsenio Hall and Trevor Noah as candidates, to offer a nontraditional, late-night-esque take on the day’s news
Another, more promising prospect is Maher, a more no-nonsense progressive who despite his politics, manages to appeal to wider demographic than his more polarizing counterparts.
Maher, 66, currently hosts his long-running, eponymous program on HBO, which, like CNN, is now presided over by parent company Warner Bros.
Earlier this week, Puck reported that CNN brass were already in talks to begin airing some of Maher’s weekly extra HBO segments on some of the station’s various media outlets.
Already familiar with using satire to improve viewership, Licht was brought on last February with the tall task of raising diminished viewership on the network.
That said, ratings slumps in late night have been widespread – and many have attributed it to liberal talking points exhibited by hosts while on the air.
As liberals find themselves turned off by politically driven diatribes by their favorite TV talkers, figures like Gutfeld! have carved out a spot for themselves at the top of the heap in the battle for late-night supremacy – potentially spurring Licht’s latest action to right the CNN ship
Offenders include Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden – all vehement progressives who have seen ratings fall drastically in recent years, with nearly all at some point accused of being vehicles for the liberal mass media.
The rapidly shifting late night landscape, moreover, has made the success currently enjoyed by more conservative talkers – such as Greg Gutfeld – all the more stark.
The Fox Show last year drew a ratings average of 2.15M viewers – well over what liberal rivals Fallon, Corden, Colbert, and Noah, have drummed up in recent months.
The show, which went nightly in April 2021, is often lambasted by the left and adored by the right – but as liberals find themselves turned off by politically driven diatribes by their favorite TV talkers, figures like Gutfeld! have carved out a spot for themselves at the top of the heap in the battle for late-night supremacy.
Back in July, showrunners pulled notorious neoliberal comedian Samantha Bee’s ‘Full Frontal’ on TBS, after Bee, a former correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, had trouble securing even 300,000 viewers to her show.
Then, in September, Stewart’s replacement, woke comedian Trevor Noah, was bounced from the program after seven years also amid dwindling ratings.
Since assuming Stewart’s spot at the once popular show, viewership has declined dramatically – with some saying the South African comic’s heavy-handed soapbox rants triggered the slump.
When Noah, 38, took over the show in 2015, its ratings sat at around 900,000 – but in recent months numbers have fallen below 400,000.
For reference, Stewart’s tenure saw viewing figures typically around 1.5 million an episode – which at points rose as high as 2.5million.
Viewing figures for the week of September 19-25 show liberal late night shows playing second-fiddle to new top dog Gutfeld!, which started airing weeknights at 11pm in April of last year. Many attribute the reduction to recent political rantings exhibited by hosts while on the air
Meanwhile, it’s hard to find a monologue on Colbert, Kimmel, or Seth Meyers without Trump, who has been out of office for nearly two years, being the topic of discussion.
With that said, famously liberal Meyers, who took the Late Night mantle made famous by David Letterman and later diminished by Fallon back in 2017, has failed to hit the viewer mark in recent years.
In 1984, Letterman averaged 2.5 million viewers. Today, Meyers has struggled to even meet the 800,000 viewer mark.
The situation at NBC is reportedly so dire that rumors are swirling that Meyers’ show may be relegated either to the network’s struggling streaming service, Peacock, or to notoriously leftist network arm MSNBC.
Corden, meanwhile has also been subjected to his own controversies and even worse ratings, also failing to hit 800,000 as he faces backlash from fellow comedians such as Ricky Gervais for stealing their material.
Back in July, showrunners pulled notorious neoliberal comedian Samantha Bee’s ‘Full Frontal’ off TBS, after Bee, a former correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, had trouble securing even 300,000 viewers to her show,
Across the rest of the late-night sphere, the ratings phenomenon is much of the same, with only Colbert, Kimmel, and Fallon surpassing the million mark, in second, third, and fourth place behind Gutfeld, respectively.
All are well below Gutfeld!’s impressive ratings haul of 2.5million views as of October, according to the latest Nielsen research.
The aforementioned shows’ averages all dwindled well below ratings garnered in recent years, and have all been hosted for a number of years by increasingly outspoken – and left-leaning – hosts.
And as these hosts continue to welcome guests such Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Nancy Pelosi – while spewing harmful rhetoric -Fox’s Gutfeld has meanwhile emerged as the King of late-night.
Then, in September, Stewart’s replacement, woke comedian Noah, was bounced from the program after seven years amid also dwindling ratings
That, taken in conjunction with Kimmel’s recent revelation regarding his ratings, seems to illustrate a desire from viewers for nonpartisan, and even unapologetic, content – something the mainstream late shows have seemed to lost touch with.
And, as ratings for these shows continue to plummet to unprecedented lows, no one has taken greater pleasure in the shifting landscape as Trump, who last month congratulated Gutfeld, who previously headed the talk show Red, for his recent viewing figures – while also taking credit for the ratings demise seen by Kimmel’s, Colbert’s, and Noah’s shows.
‘It was my great honor to have destroyed the ratings of late-night ‘Comedy’ shows,’ the ex president wrote of the struggling shows on his Truth Social Platform.
‘There is nothing funny about the shows, the three hosts have very little talent,’ he went on.
CNN has subsequently sought to purge itself of its reputation of being a ‘woke’ media source – with Licht, who headed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for six years until it was announced he was replacing Zucker, pledging to make the network reliable to the people again by halting the slander of Republicans.
The new movement has resulted in the termination of several popular and notoriously progressive hosts, including John Harwood and Brian Stelter, along with their shows.
However, despite these efforts – which have been in motion for the better part of a year – poor ratings have persisted, particularly for the network’s crucial primetime spot.
Upon assuming the CEO spot toward the start of the year, Licht warned staffers that changes were coming to the network that they may ‘not understand’ or ‘like.’
Similarly, Licht has strived to steer hosts like Don Lemon and Jim Acosta away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Seeking to return to the station’s roots as a hard-hitting news source, Licht over the past eight months has revamped the newsroom with a series of hiring, firings, and on-air shuffles – which has seen him condemned by left-wingers such as ex-colleague Keith Olbermann and gun activist Sharron Watts.
Licht, 51, responded to that disapproval, addressing decisions like moving Lemon out of primetime and tabbing Jake Tapper to temporarily fill Chris Cuomo’s old slot – a failed experiment that lasted just a month.
Licht, meanwhile, has already faced backlash for replacing progressives like Lemon and Cuomo with more centrist figures – as well as hires like Stephen Gutowski, founder and editor of firearms website The Reload.
Licht seemed to be responding to recent criticism he’s following hires like Gutowski, by figures such as Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization dedicated to implementing increased public safety measures to quell gun violence – especially in schools.
Ex-CNN staffer Olbermann, along with several others, have been vocal in their disapproval of Licht, going as far as to label him a ‘TV fascist’ after his plans to overhaul the struggling network.
In an interview with the Times, Licht – who also made waves when he canceled Brian Stelter’s ‘Reliable Sources’ amid his attempts to tone down any displays of partisanship by on-air talent – asserted that his mission is to offer a viable information outlet to both conservatives and liberals with his various maneuvers.
‘No one wants a school shooting,’ Licht said. ‘But we have to understand the culture of people who like guns.’ He added: ‘This is not vanilla, centrist or boring.’
The comments echoed those made by Licht to the Financial Times in November, when he proclaimed that ‘one of the biggest misconceptions about my vision is that I want to be vanilla, that I want to be centrist. That is bulls**t.
‘You have to be compelling. You have to have edge. In many cases, you take a side. Sometimes you just point out uncomfortable questions,’ he added.
‘But either way, you don’t see it through a lens of left or right.’
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is seen on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show earlier this year. As broadcasts grow increasingly political and partisan, the cultural demise of late-night comedy looks poised to continue
Licht has repeated said that his plans for on-air talent at the network are for them to offer ‘a rational conversation about polarizing issues’ and a version of news dedicated to basing polarizing figures such as Trump ’24/7.’
To that avail Licht has made a number of changes at CNN since taking the helm, as he strives to return the station to its roots with hard-hitting, non-partisan journalism free of punditry.
Those moves have turned heads both within the company and externally, and said his vision for CNN is one where journalism takes a front seat to punditry prevalent across much of cable news.
Last month, in addition to the 9pm shuffle, anchor Alisyn Camerota and legal analyst Laura Coates were moved to man the 10pm through 12am time slot – a post that was left abandoned by Don Lemon, who was moved to head a ‘reimagined’ morning show along with co-anchors Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.
‘By adding the insights, experience and strong voices of Alisyn and Laura, we will advance and expand on that coverage, creating something complimentary and compelling in primetime,’ Licht said of the decision – one of the biggest made by the boss in recent months amid his nonpartisan overhaul.
Since taking the helm, Licht, has been adamant staff move away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Donald Trump‘s election campaign and subsequent presidency, with his tenure already seeing marked decreases in partisan panels.
The new CNN boss has worked to tone down the often opinionated and emotional reporting from anchors like Lemon, who also was relieved of hosting duties for the network’s underperforming primetime slot
Late last year, Licht walked back its decision to have Jake Tapper (pictured) take over the 9pm primetime slot following poor viewership – throwing a hurdle into the network’s reported plans for the anchor to become the ‘face’ of the network as it pulls away from partisan reporting
Days before tapping Tapper, CNN announced the ‘reimagined’ morning show featuring famously progressive Lemon, another prime-time staple at the network and a famously outspoken critic of former President Trump and the Republican Party.
The decision saw Lemon sign off his 10 p.m.-midnight block on October 7, trading in the hour for the new morning program.
The production replaced the ‘New Day’ show hosted by John Berman and Brianna Keilar, which had run from 6 to 9am.
‘There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy, and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,’ Licht wrote in a statement at the time announcing the change.
‘They are uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry. Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.’
Lemon has anchored his primetime hour since 2014, and has been with CNN since 2006.
The change also forced further tweaks to the network’s dayside schedule, where both Tapper – the anchor of the late-afternoon news program The Lead – and Camerota led news hours.
New Day anchors John Berman and Brianna Keilar, meanwhile, were moved from the morning hours to make room for Lemon’s new morning program, and will each fill in during Tapper’s The Lead, which airs from 4-5pm.
Network fixture Wolf Blitzer, meanwhile, received an extra hour for his longtime program The Situation Room, which now starts at 5 pm to fill the gap.
The shakeup has left only Anderson Cooper and fellow anchor Erin Burnett at their current hours – with CNN saying other fill-in hosts will be named in the coming weeks.
Last month’s announcements served as some of Licht’s most prominent decisions amid his ‘opinion-based’ overhaul, which sources have said is geared at toning down the often divisive rhetoric of anchors who slam the GOP and their ideals.
Since taking the helm, Licht, who headed Stephen Colbert’s Late Show for six years, has demonstrated a desire to move away from opinionated reporting that became especially prevalent during Donald Trump ‘s election campaign and subsequent presidency
After being announced as Zucker’s successor, Licht sent a memo to his future staff alluding to the changes to come, seeking to rectify viewership that has diminished starkly over the years, as the network’s personalities have become increasingly outspoken with their political opinions.
‘Our viewers demand the truth from us, and I want to learn the truth from you,’ Licht wrote at the time. ‘Together, we will double-down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not.’
Licht has said his one directive as CNN’s president is to ensure that it ‘remains the global leader in news’ as it adjusts to its recent merger with the Discovery Channel – emphasizing the word ‘news’ in capital letters.
In February, Zucker resigned after facing pressure from network brass for not disclosing a consensual romance with his second-in-command Allison Gollust, his friend and colleague of over 20 years – violating corporate policy in the process.
Gollust, meanwhile, was forced out of the network almost immediately after – following a third-party investigation into ‘issues associated with Chris Cuomo and former Governor Andrew Cuomo,’ WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a statement.
At the time, Discovery’s largest shareholder, John Malone – a billionaire businessman who donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration in 2017 – openly criticized CNN of its increasingly apparent left-leaning bias, ahead of the companies’ multibillion-dollar merger.
CNN founder Ted Turner reportedly also ‘adamantly’ opposed the direction Zucker had taken with CNN by ‘turning it into an opinion network,’ a decision the billionaire said was done to compete with other partisan stations like Fox – but resulted in ‘losing the concept of hard news.’
Turner and Malone apparently agreed on their disappointment in the current state of the network, Turner’s biographer Porter Bibb said last year when Zucker was still at the helm.
‘John Malone is not only speaking his own opinion of what CNN should be doing as an all-news network, but he speaks for Ted,’ Bibb said.
Malone, 81, has since been credited with the ouster of Zucker, which reportedly came after the exec learned of the ex-president’s affair with Vice President Gollust.
CNN hopes to move on from drama after the bombshell ousters of host Chris Cuomo and network boss Jeff Zucker (together above in 2014)