Axios broke the news today that Chris Wallace will host his own show on CNN. Wallace lost his four-day-a-week show on CNN Plus when CNN pulled the plug on its new streaming service almost as soon as it started. Poor old Chris was left in limbo, appearing on CNN in the meantime. Rest easy. Chris has landed in a decent spot for himself.
When Wallace left Fox News Channel after twenty years of hosting his own Sunday morning show, it was a surprise. Why in the world would he do that? FNC is the highest rated cable news outlet and CNN doesn’t even come close in the competition. At the time, he blamed the events of January 6 and FNC opinion show anchors who supported the Big Lie. CNN offered him a multi-million dollar contract and set him up on CNN Plus. He was shuffled off to its new baby, a subscription streaming service. Wallace left a cush position on FNC for uncertain territory at CNN.
Almost immediately, Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, left in disgrace. Wallace was irate. He probably was irate at himself for being such a fool for leaving FNC and falling for CNN’s offer. Zucker and others at CNN were thrilled to talk about Wallace leaving FNC for their network.
CNN has had some trying months recently, to put it charitably, when it comes to personnel issues. There was the whole Cuomo brothers scandal. Don Lemon creates headlines related to his lifestyle. And, the new owners, Warner Bros. Discovery, have taken a new path in programming goals. Allegedly. The goal is for less opinion, more actual journalism in its shows. I know what you’re thinking – we’ll believe it when we see it.
Wallace’s interview show will debut this fall on HBO Max. It will air on CNN on Sunday evenings. Not exactly a choice spot, eh? HBO Max is a subscription service so we’ll see how the ratings go. The problem for CNN Plus is that CNN’s low ratings mean a lack of viewer interest. It was really dumb for Zucker to think people would pay for more CNN. We’ll see if Wallace’s show is compelling enough to garner attention and increase viewership. I’m guessing not. Wallace is an old pro (who definitely leans left) but his personality is bland. I watched his show on FNC each week because I watch all the Sunday morning political shows. I found him to be the least offensive of the lefty hosts. I haven’t seen him on television since his switch.
The Axios story previews the intention of Warner Bros. Discovery to change course at CNN.
The big picture: Warner Bros. Discovery executives haven’t been shy about their intentions for CNN, saying repeatedly that they want to focus the network’s future on nonpartisan reporting instead of personality programming at primetime.
Speaking at the upfront event, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav CNN, “At a time where most news networks are advocacy networks, we at CNN intend to advocate for journalism first.”
Journalism first. What a concept for a news outlet. From its beginning back in the day, CNN has always leaned left, as all networks did until FNC came on the scene. Some networks were more subtle than others. CNN went off the rails in the run-up to Trump’s election, after giving him a lot of time before he won the GOP presidential primary. Then it all got real and Trump became Enemy Number One. CNN went into a full-out adversarial position against him and it lasted for his entire term in office. The network still relies on negative stories about Trump to fill airtime. They just can’t quit him now. Will CNN ever be able to recover?
Today CNN CEO Chris Licht announced some changes coming to the cable news network.
Wallace’s show was announced at the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront Wednesday morning by Licht, who also announced some other changes coming to CNN.
For starters, Licht said that CNN will “reimagine” CNN’s morning show, leveraging the network’s journalists and correspondents.
“We are seeking to be a disrupter to the broadcast morning shows in this space, and we believe we have the resources to do it,” Licht said. Licht, of course, served as executive producer of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and of CBS This Morning.
Licht said that with “extremes” dominating cable news, “we will seek to go a different way.”
“Truth, fact and news that has real impact in their [viewers] lives is how we plan CNN’s future,” he said.
Fox and Friends is still the most watched morning show on cable networks. CNN is far behind Morning Joe, the second most watched morning show on cable. Licht has his work cut out for him all the way around. Frankly, CNN’s morning show is one of the least offensive shows on the network to conservative-leaning viewers on most days. Wallace seems to be in good shape.
“Part of the CNN brand is respectful, authentic and impactful interviews and one of the best interviewers in the business is Chris Wallace,” Licht said in an announcement sent by the network during Wednesday’s upfront presentation. “Chris and his team developed an engaging and compelling program that we’re excited to bring to HBO Max and include in our CNN Sunday evening programming.”
“I’m in good shape, whether it’s CNN or someplace else,” Wallace said during an event last month. “Frankly, what I’m mostly concerned about right now, and very, is my team and hundreds of other people … that had jobs at CNN+.”
Can the new leadership at CNN pull off a transformation? Color me skeptical.