CNN is reportedly floating the idea of hiring a late-night comedian to fill gaps in its primetime lineup, Semafor first reported.
Network executives are considering a comedian to host a non-traditional program that could air in the 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot, five sources familiar with the matter reportedly told Semafor. The network is reportedly considering “Real Time” host Bill Maher, former “Daily Show” hosts Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah, and Arsenio Hall.
could CNN’s prime time line up soon include… comedians? new idea being considered https://t.co/9g7NosBoXs pic.twitter.com/QeY4mWnpk0
— Anthony Segaert (@anthonysegaert) January 16, 2023
CNN President Chris Licht served as the executive producer for the late night CBS program, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” for six years before joining the network in May. He told The New York Times last year that he would gladly sign a contract with Stewart if it weren’t for the comedian’s legal agreement with Apple, the outlet reported. Stewart has hosted “The Problem With John Stewart” on AppleTV+ since 2021. (RELATED: CNN’s Chris Licht Stands By Effort To Make CNN Less Partisan, Says Left-Wing Attacks ‘Prove His Point’)
Maher is under contract with CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, making him a possible contender, while Noah left “The Daily Show” at the end of 2022 and has yet to lock himself into another major commitment.
“They’re looking for their version of John Oliver,” an insider reportedly told Semafor.
Licht and network executives are aiming to steer away from competition with MSNBC and other left-leaning political stations, and instead hope to compete with ESPN, Netflix and HGTV, the outlet reported. The network has considered turning the 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. slots into a series of shows resembling a variety program.
CNN anchor Lauren Coates will likely remain in her current late night position in order to cover breaking news events in the evening, while her fellow anchor Alisyn Camerota will likely move to an earlier time slot, sources told Semafor.
CNN’s rival networks have also experimented with programs that mix entertainment and news, including Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” The conservative program, hosted by anchor Greg Gutfeld, offers a funny perspective of current events and often outperforms its late night competitors. NBCUniversal executives have reportedly considered moving comedian Seth Meyers’ show to MSNBC.
CNN posted historically low ratings in 2022. The network averaged a little over a half million viewers in a day, and slightly over 120,000 in the key 25-to-54-year-old advertiser demographic, Puck News reported Wednesday. Its total viewership on Jan. 10 was an estimated 520,000, according to Adweek data.
The network’s profitability also dropped below $1 billion for the first time since 2016. The new financial situation led Licht to lay off a large pool of paid contributors and staff in early December.
Licht made an effort to shift the network’s left-leaning coverage to an increasingly bipartisan stance by purging notably left-of-center anchors and reporters, including Brian Stelter and John Harwood. He also replaced the network’s morning show with “CNN This Morning,” which is co-hosted by anchors Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon and former Daily Caller reporter Kaitlan Collins.