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New CNN Boss Seeks to Create a Less Divisive News Network

Facing a post-Trump identity crisis and viewing slump, Chris Licht is considering wooing brands to sponsor segments on CNN shows

The CNN building in Atlanta, Georgia.
The CNN building in Atlanta, Georgia.Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

Throughout much of his career in TV, Chris Licht has obsessed over ratings, often scrutinizing viewership data on a minute-by-minute basis to diagnose when viewers lost interest. Once, he skipped a close friend’s wedding because it was scheduled during “Sweeps Week,” the period when audience levels take on greater importance. Another time, while recovering in the hospital from a brain aneurysm, he found himself unable to resist checking the numbers on the morning show he was producing.

Now, as the new leader of CNN, Licht is exploring ways for the cable news network to depend less on TV ratings to make money. One idea would be for CNN to create new show segments that advertisers can sponsor—similar to how brands have attached their names to a fast-paced montage of headlines called the “Eye Opener” on “CBS This Morning,” where Licht was previously the executive producer. Licht also wants to invest in CNN’s international channels, particularly CNN en Espanol, and is considering a premium section of CNN’s website that would only be available to paying subscribers.