NEW: CNN To Fire HUNDREDS As Ratings Crater

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CNN has announced plans to lay off at least 100 employees, with potentially more on the chopping block, as part of a new strategy focused on shoring up the network’s failing cable news ratings and making a second attempt for a foothold in the digital realm.

The Wall Street Journal reported that CNN Chief Executive Mark Thompson, in a memo sent to staff on Wednesday, outlined his plan to shave hundreds off the company’s payroll, mostly through a merger of the television newsgathering and digital-news divisions. The shift away from traditional TV will be painful, he added. “We recognize its potentially enormous impact on the individuals affected,” Thompson wrote to his 4,000 employees world wide. He declined to provide the Journal with further details about his shift to digital but said the move would “be significantly built out of CNN.com.”

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In addition to a streamlined focus on traditional news topics, Thompson wrote that a separate division would expand CNN’s “lifestyle journalism,” an admission that political news coverage will not save the network from its ratings free fall. TV news “can no longer define us,” he added, writing that the network is “nowhere near ready for the future.”

Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns CNN, has announced separate plans to conduct a small number of layoffs in the coming weeks, according to sources who spoke with the outlet. The challenge of cord-cutting continues to force mainstream media outlets to adapt to new platforms, fewer paid subscribers, and even slash the seven-figure salaries of their on-air talent.

In May the network reported its lowest viewership levels in decades. Between May 13th and 19th, CNN nabbed an average of 83,000 viewers in the crucial 25-54 age demographic between 8 and 11 p.m., the lowest level seen in over 30 years. Across all demos, the network lagged far behind its peers in a news ratings race it no longer appears qualified to run. In the past period, CNN garnered 494,000 viewers compared to 2 million for Fox and 1.1 million for MSNBC. Thompson at the time attributed the sagging ratings to a holdover effect as his CNN transitions away from traditional news and directs more of its focus to pop culture topics.

“We don’t believe news is just politics. Business and tech are news. Climate and weather are news. Health, wellness, and living longer are news. So expect to see us build new branded verticals in all these areas on TV, on our apps, and across our other platforms,” Thompson said.

One of Thompson’s first major moves was to propose dramatically slashing the salaries of its biggest talent. Top-earning anchors include Anderson Cooper at $20 million, Wolf Blitzer at $15 million, Jake Tapper at $8.5 million, and Chris Wallace at $8 million. Lower-level anchors including John Berman, Kate Bolduan, and Sara Sidner hold annual salaries between $1 million and $2 million. However, Thompson will have to wait until at least 2025 or even 2026 when contracts expire and he can renegotiate paychecks for his top stars.

No matter where it turns, CNN seems to fall victim to itself. Thompson canned former NBA star and notorious anti-Trumper Charles Barkley after his show “King Charles” failed to deliver and the basketball icon was reported to have called the network a “s***show” while it was courting him. Even when CNN succeeded by hosting town halls with Trump, the moves prompted grumbling among its reporters and media personalities who blamed network executives for amplifying so-called falsehoods.

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Source
Las Vegas News Magazine

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