The Warner Bros. Discovery-backed news outlet intends to roll out a new, kinetic on-air format that will take many of its personnel out of the usual position of sitting behind desks and instead aim to generate more energy on camera by having some of the network’s real-time newsgathering on full display. The new presentation will be utilized during many of the network’s daytime hours, says Chris Licht, CNN’s chairman and CEO, who indicated in an interview that he plans to unveil a significantly revamped daytime schedule around the end of the first quarter and the start of the second quarter this year.
“The goal we have is to take an incredible newsgathering operation that has so much information coming in at all hours from all over the world, and, in an authentic way, reflect that energy on air,” Licht told Variety.
During last week’s coverage of the election of the U.S. Speaker of the House, CNN superimposed its anchors over scenes of the news, such as a look at the U.S. Capitol or at the scrum going on among members of Congress. Interplay between studio anchors and correspondents in the field was more pronounced and fluid. Licht has been impressed by the reaction. During certain hours of key coverage, CNN drew larger audiences than its rivals among viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in news programming. What’s more, CNN’s bookings last week included many Republican lawmakers — a goal for Licht, who has worked to cull CNN’s roster of paid contributors in favor of engaging more with actual people making news.
“Our anchors are journalists, and some of the excitement and energy you saw was from people sitting on the set and reporting as they were anchoring,” says Licht. The executive offered few granular details about his plans for daytime, but people familiar with discussions believe CNN might consider a “newsroom headquarters” concept that features multiple personnel on screen at once, many of them not situated behind a traditional desk or station.
The plans would affect many hours between 9 a.m. — after the wrap of CNN’s new morning program — and 4 p.m., and some of the concepts are likely to turn up in late-afternoon programming as well. “Everything is on the table,” says Licht. “We are really starting from scratch.”