Food gurus like Anthony Bourdain and Stanley Tucci will no longer figure as prominently in the recipe for programming at CNN.
The pair are among the celebrities who helped pioneer a winning new formula at the outlet: Take viewers to places they couldn’t normally get to, add some beautiful shots of food or culture and, voila! The news outlet secured a new foothold in documentaries and docu-series that won the attention of top advertisers and could be played again and again.
Now, according to a memo from the Warner Bros. Discovery-backed outlet’s top executive, such ingredients are being put back on the shelf.
CNN is pulling back on production of the original series and films that have been a staple of its programming over the past decade. Series like Borudain’s “Parts Unknown” Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” and W. Kamau Bell’s “United Shades of America” have proven valuable in helping CNN broaden its aperture and were a pillar of the network under its previous leader, Jeff Zucker.
Now, as the network and its parent grapple with economic pressures, the pillar is likely to be narrowed. “Our long-term plan will no longer rely on commissioned projects with outside partners,: said Chris Licht, chairman and CEO of CNN in a note to employees Friday. “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. However, I want to be clear that longform content remains an important pillar of our programming.”
CNN will air six of its original series and six CNN Films in 2023, Licht said, but the executive who oversees that area of the network’s programming, Amy Entelis, is being tasked with finding new ways to “approach longform content in house,” Licht said. “My goal is to find a model that will enable us to bring our audiences this type of programming with greater flexibility,” Licht said. Entelis was one of three longtime CNN executives asked to help run the network after the abrupt exit of Zucker, who left CNN after revelations of a relationship he had with Allison Gollust, then CNN’s chief marketing officer.
More to come…