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Tipsheet

CNN Just Got Even More Bad News

AP Photo/Ron Harris

Since the merger that brought CNN under new parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, things have not been going well at the self-proclaimed "most trusted name in news." New bosses told CNN hosts to tone down their "resistance" programming or face dismissal, their overly hyped streaming service CNN+ was unceremoniously killed off, and constant leaks from inside the network depict a media outlet steeped in drama and uncertainty. 

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Now, new reporting from The New York Times notes that CNN's profitability continues to wane as projections from S&P Global Market Intelligence "say that CNN’s profitability is on pace to decline to $956.8 million this year" which "would mark the first time since 2016 that the network has dipped below $1 billion in profit," per Times sources.

As a result of profit losses — due in no small part to the cash thrown into the inferno that was CNN+ for its few short days — there's some belt-tightening happening under the leadership of new CNN Chairman Chris Licht. As The Times' reports:

However the numbers are crunched, inside CNN the hunt is on for new revenue. To help solve the financial puzzle, Mr. Licht has tapped Chris Marlin, a longtime friend who was recently an executive at the Florida homebuilder Lennar. Mr. Marlin — who some CNN employees have taken to calling “Fish Man,” a takeoff on his surname — had no experience operating a cable news network, having worked at the law firms Foley & Lardner and Holland & Knight.

Mr. Marlin has floated a variety of revenue-generating ideas since joining CNN, including striking advertising deals with major tech companies like Microsoft. Mr. Marlin has also mentioned selling sponsorships to corporate underwriters, extending CNN’s brand in China and expanding CNN Underscored, an e-commerce initiative.

CNN’s parent has also cracked down on expenses. In July, CNN employees received a revised travel and expense policy that, among other things, restricts spending on work celebrations for senior vice presidents and below to $50 per person (“no cap for C.E.O. of W.B.D.,” the policy reads). And Mr. Licht has found ways to make coverage more economical, including a recent decision not to send a U.S.-based special events team to Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

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Even though CNN+ was killed off and many potential costs of keeping the new subnetwork were avoided, the attempted foray into streaming is still dragging on CNN's bottom line. That's because, in addition to the millions CNN is spending to provide on-the-ground coverage from Ukraine, salaries for CNN+ hosts are still being paid, including for ex-Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

CNN though, as a drag on the profitability of its parent company, is in a fraught position. According to The Times' report, Warner Bros. Discovery is looking to find $3 billion to cut for "cost savings."

For now, CNN's chairman has been trying to keep up appearances and reassuring the network's employees that "he didn't expect" parent company Warner Bros. Discovery to "impose additional layoffs" after the CNN+ debacle. But not expecting is not the same as not a possibility. $3 billion is a lot of salaries and projects. 

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