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Profits Slump at CNN as Ratings Plummet

  • August 02, 2022

Two people familiar with CNN’s operations said the network’s initial 2022 profitability target was $1.1 billion, which Mr. Licht is on track to miss by more than $100 million. But another person familiar with the matter said that by the accounting of company executives, Mr. Licht was on track to meet a profitability target of roughly $950 million for the year, since the network’s initial budget didn’t account for losses associated with launching the CNN+ streaming service.

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 home builder Lennar. Mr. Marlin — whom 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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