CNN takes axe to third party commissions as part of cost cutting drive

Last week, CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht warned there would be “noticeable changes” at the network as it seeks to control costs. Now, Licht has put some flesh on the bones by advising staff that the company is going to slash external commissioning.

CNN Digital Expansion 2022 Chris Licht

In his second memo of the week, Licht told the news channels’ staffers that CNN’s long-term plan “will no longer rely on commissioned projects with outside partners. This was a very difficult decision to make, and it was based, in large part, on the ever-increasing cost of commissioning third-party premium content.”

CNN has already ordered some originals for next year and these will go ahead. After that, Amy Entelis, EVP for talent and content development, will be looking for ways to generate longform content in house. “My goal,” says Licht, “is to find a model that will enable us to bring our audiences this type of programming with greater flexibility.”

Licht’s decision is clearly a blow to the production community but comes at a time when parent company Warner Bros Discovery is turning over every stone in search of efficiencies. The main areas to suffer will be CNN Original Series and CNN Films, which has produced and acquired huge swathes of content. The company has been especially active in culinary content – with flagship series including Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. As yet, it is unclear how far Licht’s new edict will impact on the channel’s content acquisition strategy.

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