David Zaslav Picked Chris Licht to Revamp CNN. Now What?

Mr. Zaslav must also figure out a financial future for CNN, which relies heavily on the decaying businesses of cable affiliate fees and TV advertising. Profit at the company fell below $1 billion last year, the lowest in many years, including $200 million in one-time losses for the shuttered CNN+ streaming service.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Zaslav declined to comment. But on the call Wednesday he said that he was committed to a recruiting process to find Mr. Licht’s successor. That represents a significant departure from his previous approach: Mr. Licht was appointed by Mr. Zaslav personally, without talking to any other candidates except Mr. Licht, according to two people with knowledge of his selection.

Mr. Zaslav, 63, is a hard-charging chief executive who manages with exacting detail. He’s known for holding meetings in the morning, sometimes as early as 7 a.m., and weighing in with strategic details. He has described himself to employees as a “fixer,” telling them he wants to hear bad news quickly so he can address it.

He has engineered a series of audacious mergers that have catapulted him to the highest echelons of the media industry. In 2018, more than a decade after he became chief executive of Discovery, he closed a deal to merge the company with Scripps Networks Interactive, a rival in the realm of nonfiction TV, giving the combined company greater power in its negotiations with cable providers. While at Discovery, he also expanded the company’s sports programming, striking a deal for the rights to air the Olympics internationally.

Warner Bros. Discovery and CNN have been the topic of occasional speculation in the media industry as potential acquisition targets. But Mr. Zaslav told employees emphatically in a town hall last year that the company and its divisions were not for sale.

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