News networks told to cut down on costs

The logo of CNN Worldwide appears at the cable network's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26, 2013.
The logo of CNN Worldwide appears at the cable network’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26, 2013. (Photo by Hermann Luyken via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Employees at several news channels, including CNN, ABC News and CBS News, have been told to cut down on expenses as advertisers pull back on spending due to economic turbulence.

Executives at those three networks and others have handed down several cost-cutting edicts, including a ban on attending conferences, non-essential travel, business meals and other expenses that were once seen as essential to business during good times.

At the Walt Disney Company, CEO Bob Chapek recently issued a company-wide memo warning of impending layoffs due to outsized expenses and lower-than-expected revenue. The company has already implemented a hiring freeze across most of its business.

Things at CNN are no better, with the network expected to move forward with layoffs next month. Executives at Paramount Global, the parent company of CBS News, have warned of a similar “restructuring” across its news and information divisions in the coming weeks. At NBC News, some senior workers have been offered early retirement packages, the Hollywood Reporter said.

Of the four companies, the turbulence at CNN has been particularly interesting to watch: The company was part of a broader purchase of WarnerMedia by Discovery Communications earlier this year. Immediately after the purchase, Discovery executives moved to eliminate several projects at CNN, including the one-month-old streaming service CNN Plus and the network’s non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace.

Chris Licht, CNN’s new president, has been reorganizing the network around facts-first, non-polarizing programming. He canceled the on-air version of “Reliable Sources” — the media watchdog program that went hard on everyone except CNN — and relegated it to newsletter status (Brian Stelter, the program’s host, left the network almost immediately; he was replaced by deputy Oliver Darcy, who has since assumed command of the newsletter, to mixed reviews). Licht also ordered CNN producers to reduce their use of “Breaking News” during live news coverage. And he relaunched CNN’s breakfast show “New Day” under a new name (“CNN This Morning,” which franchises the brand he used at CBS for their morning show a decade ago), moving some key talent from dayside and prime-time to early mornings.

CNBC, the flagship financial news channel of cable, is far from exempt: Earlier this month, the network canceled “The News with Shepard Smith” part of a broader realignment of programming and business priorities.

One outlier in the situation: Cable’s most-watched news brand, the Fox News Channel. Executives at Fox News parent company Fox Corporation say they’re not experiencing the same constriction in the ad market that others are feeling, and that times have never been better. Fox News and the company’s other cable brands brought in over $1.029 billion in revenue during its most-recent financial quarter, up from $1.026 billion reported around the same time last year.