According to RadarOnline.com, CNN’s Chris Licht is considering replacing the current primetime lineup with a comedic news talk show. This would be Licht’s latest move since becoming Chairman and CEO in May 2022, following Jeff Zucker’s departure.
Also surprising are reports indicating Licht and other CNN executives are eyeing American comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart to host the potential new program that would air from 9-11 PM every weeknight.
Licht first hinted at his desire to poach Stewart during an interview with the New York Times last year, although the new CNN boss confirmed Stewart had signed a multi-year contract with Apple in 2020.
According to at least five network insiders, Licht and other CNN executives are also eyeing high-profile comedians such as Bill Maher, Trevor Noah and Arsenio Hall to host the potential 9-11 PM program.
“They’re looking for their version of John Oliver,” one insider told Semafor over the weekend.
Unlike Stewart, Maher is already in-house at Warner Bros. Discovery – CNN’s parent company – via his long-running HBO program Real Time with Bill Maher.
While Licht continues to eye potential talents to host a new primetime comedy show, the CNN boss has also reportedly pitched the network as a “potential gateway to other brands” within Warner Bros. Discovery – particularly HBO and Warner Brothers.
Another network insider told Semafor that Laura Coates – who currently hosts the 11 PM hour of CNN Tonight – will remain in her timeslot while Alisyn Camerota will focus solely on the 10 PM program.
CNN’s rival networks have also recently moved into the comedy landscape, with Fox News launching Gutfeld! and NBCU reportedly considering moving Late Night with Seth Meyers to MSNBC.
Other popular late-night programs, such as TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, CBS’ The Late Late Show with James Corden, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, have either ended or will be ending by spring 2023 – creating prime pickings for Licht if he decides to axe CNN’s current lineup in favor of a new comedy show.
Despite CNN’s plans, network insiders have suggested Licht’s “experiment” could also become a “programming disaster.”
“Such an experiment could also deliver a programming disaster,” Erik Wemple of the Washington Post wrote following reports of Licht’s latest shakeup. “Consider a scenario in which said entertainer was on air at the moment that an overseas war broke out, or an earthquake struck, or some statesperson died.”
“Watching the network scramble to switch back into hard-news mode — well, that would surely be entertaining,” Wemple added.