Michael Bass, a top lieutenant under former CNN CEO Jeff Zucker known for establishing the cable news network's somewhat oppositional tone during the Trump Administration, will leave his job as head of programming at the end of the year.
Bass’s departure was announced Monday morning at the weekly Monday staff meeting for parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. He becomes the latest top Zucker-era executive to depart the network amid the ascendance of new CNN CEO Chris Licht.
“We are launching a search for Michael’s replacement, and we will communicate an interim plan in the coming days,” Licht told WBD staff, describing the departure as Bass’s decision.
"Along with a brilliant and courageous team, Michael kept CNN live and on air as COVID-19 shut the world down," Licht added. "Never has CNN been more essential than those bleak days when people were struggling to understand the pandemic."
Bass’s time with Zucker runs all the way back to their days producing NBC's Today, although he was kept on by Licht after an initial round of executive housecleaning over the summer.
Media-telecom mogul John Malone, who orchestrated the $43 billion merger of Warner Bros. and Discovery, has publicly discussed his intention to reorient CNN into a more "centrist" news network. For his part, Zucker has said the network was plenty center-oriented when he was in charge of it — it was just that most of the news coming out of the Trump White House wasn’t all that flattering.
Regardless as to what side of the ideological spectrum CNN under Zucker — and now Licht — is viewed, the new CEO has a big ratings problem to fix.
How bad is it? On the Tuesday night of the midterm elections two weeks ago, CNN lost decisively to MSNBC in total viewers. ■
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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