Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said CNN is renewing its focus on “journalism” — signaling he wants the scandal-scarred, left-leaning network to eventually deliver straight news that also appeals to conservatives.

The CEO, whose company owns CNN, Warner Bros., HBO, Animal Planet and TLC, told reporters at Allen & Co.’s “summer camp for billionaires” in Sun Valley, Idaho, that CNN’s new approach will pay off in the long term, even as ratings sink to historic lows.

“Journalism first. America needs a news network where everybody can come and be heard; Republicans, Democrats,” Zaslav said. “I think you’re seeing more of that at CNN. We’re not going to look at the ratings and, in the long run, it’s going to be worth more.”

Zaslav, who took the helm of Discovery and WarnerMedia after it merged to form Warner Bros. Discovery in April, hired Chris Licht as head of CNN, following the ouster of Jeff Zucker earlier this year. His mandate for Licht, a former executive producer of CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” was to get rid of the sensational, partisan, Trump-focused coverage made popular under Zucker.

“I think Chris is doing a great job pivoting CNN,” Zaslav told Variety.

Under Licht, CNN has dialed back using the “breaking news” banner on its reports in order to shift away from opinion-based programming. But one well-placed source told The Post that the ratings have taken a hit due in part to removing such “sensational” and “delicious” details that have become commonplace in cable news.

“The problem is we are not a neutral country,” the source said. “The ratings are getting worse because they are taking out all the bells and whistles. CNN’s ratings are as bad as local news ratings.”

“New management is not freaking out but everyone else at CNN is,” the source added. “They want to fix the shows first, but they don’t realize the shows and ratings are connected.”

David Zaslav
Under Zaslav, CNN is focusing more on journalism, and less on partisan, opinion-based news.
Getty Images

After half a year of weak ratings, CNN turned in one of its worst months yet. According to TV ratings agency Nielsen, CNN’s weekend ratings for the month were the lowest of the year in both the all-important 25- to 54-year-old demographic and total viewers. It also coincided with a historic low for the network on Saturday, June 18 — which saw the network dip to 57,000 total demo viewers. That Saturday was also the worst-rated since 1993, which pre-dated CNN’s top competitors Fox News and MSNBC.

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” hosted by Brian Stelter notched its lowest-rated month since June 2001, bringing in 79,000 demo viewers and 585,000 average total viewers.

Stelter’s show, which focuses on big media stories and how the press covers the news, also marked its lowest second quarter since 2019, with an average of 679,000 viewers and 111,000 average demo viewers.

Chris Licht
New CNN boss Chris Licht is dialing back the use of the “breaking news” banner in CNN reports and focusing more on hard news.
Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Stelter and other opinion-focused anchors have recently been on the hot seat at CNN.

According to a recent Axios report, Licht is evaluating whether CNN’s staffers can adjust to the new approach. Anyone who doesn’t fall in line “could be ousted,” according to the report.

The report did not mention whether any specific CNN anchors were under particular scrutiny, but it did note that Stelter and Jim Acosta were among the personalities whose left-leaning viewpoints have drawn the ire of conservatives.

CNN World Headquarters.
CNN’s ratings have been in freefall since former President Donald Trump left office.
LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite weak ratings for “Reliable Sources,” the show still outpaced CNN prime-time hosts like Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon for the quarter in terms of total viewers, Nielsen said. In the second quarter of the year, CNN primetime reeled in an average of 670,000 total viewers and 155,000 in the demo. Mediate recently reported that Stelter and Acosta beat out CNN’s weekday primetime programming — a rare feat that demonstrates just how bad things are at CNN.

But the left-leaning network’s ratings slide began well before new management took over. Earlier this year, after former President Donald Trump left office, CNN’s ratings took a 90% nosedive both overall and in the demographic coveted by advertisers in the first week of January.

Shortly after, longtime boss Zucker resigned after he didn’t disclose a romantic relationship with another senior executive at the company.


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