Doc ‘Taking on Taylor Swift’ to Stream on Max Oct. 20

As Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour expands around the globe and onto the silver screen, Taking on Taylor Swift, CNN’s investigation into the copyright lawsuit brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler against Swift for her hit song “Shake It Off,” will stream on Max Oct. 20.

Produced by the CNN FlashDocs unit, the special explores creativity, credit, and the hazy line between cultural appreciation and appropriation.
 
The 2017 lawsuit, which was settled and dismissed in 2022, alleged the chorus of Swift’s hit song, “Shake It Off” (“’cause the players gonna play, play, play…”) is a direct lift from the 2000 song, “Playas Gon’ Play” written by Hall and Butler, and made famous by the girl group, 3LW.  For the first time since taking legal action, Hall spoke exclusively to CNN, along with his attorney Marina V. Bogorad, about their experience taking on an indisputable giant of the music industry. 

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Taking on Taylor Swift scrutinizes the legal, ethical and cultural merits of this case and similar lawsuits lodged against some of the world’s biggest pop stars. The special features insights from songwriters Tayla Parx and Kandi Burruss, and observations from critics and journalists including Shirley Halperin (Los Angeles Magazine), Sidney Madden (NPR), and Mikael Wood (Los Angeles Times).
 
For CNN FlashDocs, Eric Johnson serves as an Executive Producer and Emily Taguchi serves as Supervising Producer. The unit is led by Katie Hinman, VP of program development for CNN Worldwide.

View the trailer here.

Mark Thompson Named New Chairman/CEO of CNN Worldwide

Warner Bros. Discovery Aug. 30 announced that veteran news executive Mark Thompson has been named Chairman/CEO of CNN Worldwide, reporting directly to CEO David Zaslav.

Thompson, former director-general of the BBC and president/CEO of The New York Times Company, begins his role on Oct. 9, replacing Chris Licht, who was fired in June.

CNN’s interim leadership team of Amy Entelis, EVP of talent and content development; David Leavy, COO; Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial, CNN U.S.; and Eric Sherling, EVP of U.S. programming; will continue in their functional roles, reporting to Thompson.

In his new role, Thompson will lead CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, including its global portfolio of networks, channels and programming across broadcast, streaming and digital as well as CNN’s approximately 4,000 employees worldwide. He will act as editor-in-chief, ultimately responsible for all CNN content.

“There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark,” Zaslav said in a statement. “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations. His strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Indeed, while at The New York Times from 2012 to 2020, Thompson led the creation of the world’s largest and most successful news digital business to date, increasing paid digital subscriptions to the Times tenfold and more than doubling the company’s total digital revenue. During his tenure, there were also stand-out innovations in podcasting (The Daily) and life-style and features content (NYT Cooking, NYT Games, Wirecutter).

At the BBC, Thompson led the development of the BBC iPlayer, the world’s first streaming service from a major broadcaster, expanded Web and smartphone services from news to education to entertainment, and oversaw coverage of the biggest events of the time from the global financial crisis of 2008-09 to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Samba TV: CNN’s Daily Viewership Declined 7% During Licht Leadership

When Chris Licht was hired as Chairman/CEO of CNN in May 2022, corporate parent Warner Bros. Discovery envisioned the veteran TV producer transitioning what former President Donald Trump called the epicenter of “fake news” into a middle-of-the-road news network embraced by both sides of the political isle.

Instead, Licht, who was fired this week after 13 months on the job, managed to oversee a 7% daily drop in viewership at the network, according to new data from Samba TV, which tracks viewership intel across 48 million connected televisions worldwide.

Chris Licht

The executive’s lone “highpoint” was CNN’s Town Hall with Trump on May 10, which delivered the network’s highest viewership in years, in addition to its loudest criticism. The event saw 4.8 million U.S. households watching CNN that day. Since then, however, CNN has seen its ratings slide, with no day since then bringing in over 3.5 million U.S. household tune-ins.

Indeed, since Licht took over from former CEO Jeff Zucker in May 2022, viewership at the network’s competitors, including MSNBC and Fox News, saw year-over-year increases in average daily household reach — with Newsmax generating the largest overall daily viewership increase at 23%.

A separate study found that CNN’s advertising revenue fell almost 40% during Licht’s reign.

Cole Strain, VP of measurement science at Samba TV, suggests the data indicates that appetite for news coverage has been slowing in the aftermath of historic spikes from breaking news events like the Ukraine war, the most recent presidential election, and the indictment of former President Trump.

“Since May of 2022, when new leadership took over, CNN has struggled to keep pace relative to its competitors,” Strain said. “The network has seen its average daily reach decrease year over year, while other cable news networks have seen growth. This comparison may have been a contributing factor in the decision to part ways with its now former CEO.”

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CNN Boss Chris Licht Stepping Down After 13 Months; Tucker Carlson Bows New Show on Twitter to ‘Huge’ Numbers

Warner Bros. Discovery June 7 announced that Chris Licht, chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, has stepped down, effective immediately, just 13 months after being hired to rejigger the liberal-leaning news network in the face of plummeting ratings.

Licht had come under fire following media reports of his handling of a recent Town Hall featuring former President Donald Trump, among other issues.

As the company looks for a replacement, CNN’s interim leadership team will include Amy Entelis, EVP of talent and content development, Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial, and Eric Sherling, EVP of U.S. programming, as well as David Leavy, chief operating officer, on the commercial side.

Chris Licht

“I have great respect for Chris, personally and professionally,” David Zaslav, president/CEO of  Warner Bros. Discovery, said in a statement. “The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it.

Licht assumed his position in May 2022 after a stint as EVP of special programming at CBS and executive producer and showrunner for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Prior to that, he was VP of programming for CBS News and executive producer of the network’s morning news program, “CBS This Morning,” which he helped launch in 2012. Prior to CBS, Licht was the co-creator and original executive producer of MSNBC’s morning news show, “Morning Joe.”

“While we know we have work to do as we look to identify a new leader, we have absolute confidence in the team we have in place and will continue to fight for CNN and its world-class journalism,” Zaslav said.

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Separately, former conservative Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson launched his new solo show, “Tucker on Twitter,” with a 10-minute episode that reportedly generated 27 million views on the Elon Musk-owned social media platform. While the tally would appear to greatly exceed the 3 million daily viewers of his former Fox show, the Twitter tally reportedly counts anyone whose social media feed includes Carlson — regardless whether they actually watched the video.

 

Town Hall With Donald Trump Highest-Rated CNN Political Event Since 2016

Like moths to a flame, TV viewers can’t get enough of televised political events featuring Donald Trump.

Despite the controversy surrounding CNN’s decision to go ahead with its May 10 “Republican Presidential Town Hall with Former President Donald Trump,” the day after he was found guilty of sexual harassment and defamation, the Warner Bros. Discovery news unit scored a rare ratings win for the Wednesday night telecast.

The 70-minute broadcast ranked No. 1 in cable news and No. 2 among all cable programming (behind only the NBA Playoffs on TNT) in both total viewers and adults 25-54, according to CNN.

Hosted by CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins, the Town Hall out of St. Anselm College in New Hampshire averaged 3.308 million total viewers. That was more than the combined viewership of rivals Fox News (1.446 million in the town hall time period) and MSNBC, which had 1.398 million viewers.

Wednesday’s event was CNN’s No. 1 single-candidate town hall since 2016 among adults 25-54 and No. 2 among total viewers, closely behind CNN’s “2020 Joe Biden Town Hall” Sept. 17, with 3.465 million viewers.

The CNN town hall delivered a larger demo audience than Trump’s first town hall of the 2020 election cycle on Fox News, and significantly ahead of Trump’s last town hall appearance on CNN in 2016 (aired April 12), delivering 53% more total viewers (3.308 million vs. 2.168 million).

Among total viewers, CNN had 2.293 million, 57% more than MSNBC’s 1.458 million and 36% more than Fox News’s 1.683 million. This marked CNN’s best performance in prime time since the 2022 Midterm Elections among total viewers on Nov. 8, 2022, with 2.608 million viewers.

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On CNN’s digital platforms, the town hall streamed live, without requiring a cable log-in, on CNN’s homepage and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET and peaked with 149,000 concurrent viewers at 9:09 p.m., the largest concurrent digital livestream audience for a CNN Election Town Hall since at least the 2020 cycle. The livestream generated nearly 1 million live video starts.

Combining TV plus digital live streaming produced a combined average audience of 3.408 million total viewers. Digital viewing added a 3% lift to CNN’s TV P2+ average audience for the town hall, ranking 9th among all town halls on record. CNN coverage (8 to 9:09 p.m. ET) saw an average audience of 100,000 users live streaming the average minute of coverage (equivalent to the way TV ratings are calculated).

Don Lemon Out at Warner Bros. Discovery-Owned CNN After 17 Years

Longtime left-wing opinion host Don Lemon has been let go by CNN after 17 years. Lemon, who co-hosted the network’s revamped morning show for the past five months after hosting his own evening show for years, caused a media uproar in February when he made comments about former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, that were considered sexist. Lemon later apologized.

The morning show will continue co-hosted by Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. In a statement, CNN said Lemon would “forever be a part of the CNN family.”

“We thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years. We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors,” the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned network said in a statement.

The termination was not taken well by Lemon, who said he was stunned by the decision.

“After 17 years at CNN, I would have thought that someone in management would have the decency to tell me directly,” Lemon wrote in a social media post.

Notably, Lemon, on social media, said he wasn’t aware of any issues surrounding his continued employment at the network that would preclude him from doing “the work I have loved at the network.”

“It is clear that there are some larger issues at play,” he wrote, then thanked his staff and co-workers.

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CNN Wins First Oscar for ‘Navalny’ Documentary Now Streaming on HBO Max

CNN won its first Oscar in its near 43-year history at the 95th Academy Awards March 12 in Los Angeles, where original CNN Films movie Navalny won Best Documentary Feature Film.

The doc, which aired on CNN and is currently streaming on HBO Max (both owned by Warner Bros. Discovery), explores the attempted assassination of Alexey Navalny, the enigmatic Russian anti-corruption campaigner and former presidential candidate (against Vladimir Putin) currently imprisoned in Russia.

Doc director Daniel Roher methodically records the meticulous research and analysis that unmasked Navalny’s would-be killers, and why they sought to kill the man Putin apparently considers a serious threat to his power. Interweaving interviews with Navalny, his family, and contemporaneous eyewitnesses to key events with other records, the doc follows the investigation into the assassination plot, and includes reporting from the investigative news organization, Bellingcat, and CNN.

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“[The doc], first and foremost, is about the passion, drive, and inspiring heroism of Alexey Navalny, who even as we celebrate this award continues to languish in a penal colony,” Amy Entelis, EVP, talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, said in a statement.

The documentary premiered at 2022 Sundance Film Festival where it received the U.S. Documentary Audience and Festival Favorite Awards. The film was released theatrically by Warner Bros. Pictures. It has been honored with a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, a PGA Award for Outstanding Producers of Documentary Motion Picture, a DuPont-Columbia Award, two Cinema Eye Honors for Outstanding Production and the Audience Choice Prize, along with a Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best Political Documentary.

Navalny marked CNN Films’ first win and second Academy Award nomination for Documentary Feature Film, following the 2019 nomination of RBG.

CNN Originals Hub Launches on Discovery+ Streaming Service

CNN has returned to the over-the-top video landscape.

Warner Bros. Discovery said the new CNN Originals hub is now streaming on the Discovery+ subscription streaming platform in the United States, affording subs access to much of the same curated library CNN content, CNN Original Series, CNN Films, and HLN Original Series found on the short-lived CNN+ streaming service.

Discovery+ subs have access to more than 800 episodes of current and legacy programming at CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series library within the discovery+ app or on the web at https://www.discoveryplus.com/channel/cnn-originals.

In addition to this initial offering of CNN Originals available to stream, select CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series will be added to Discovery+ following their linear run on the cable networks. Titles will be announced in the months to come.

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Offerings under the CNN Originals hub on Discovery+ include:

  • “1968: The Year That Changed America”
  • “American Dynasties: The Kennedys,” narrated by Martin Sheen
  • “American Style”
  • “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” (Seasons 1-12)
  • “The Bush Years: Family, Duty, Power,” narrated by Ed Harris
  • “Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta”
  • “Crimes of the Century”
  • “Diana”
  • “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery” (Seasons 1-2)
  • “High Profits”
  • “The History of Comedy” (Seasons 1-2)
  • “History of the Sitcom”
  • “Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury” narrated Ewan McGregor
  • “LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy”
  • “Lincoln: Divided We Stand” narrated by Sterling K Brown
  • “Nomad with Carlton McCoy”
  • “Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History,” narrated by Liam Neeson
  • “Race for the White House” (Seasons 1-2) narrated by Mahershala Ali
  • “Reframed: Marilyn Monroe” narrated by Jessica Chastain
  • “Soundtracks: Songs that Defined History”
  • “The Radical Story of Patty Hearst”
  • “The Wonder List with Bill Weir” (Seasons 1-3)
  • “Watergate: Blueprint for A Scandal”

 

HLN Original Series library titles:

  • “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”
  • “The Dead Wives Club” hosted by Lorraine Bracco
  • “Death Row Stories” (Seasons 1-5)
  • “Hell in the Heartland: What Happened to Ashley and Lauria?”
  • “How it Really Happened” (Seasons 1-6)
  • “The Hunt with John Walsh” (Seasons 1-5)
  • “The Killer Truth”
  • “Lies, Crimes & Video” (Seasons 1-3)
  • “Murder Nation: Blood on the Bayou”
  • “Murder Nation: Jersey Gore”
  • “Real Life Nightmare” (Seasons 1-3)
  • “Sex & Murder” (Seasons 1-3)
  • “Unmasking a Killer”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Coworkers”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Families”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Lovers”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Millionaires”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Neighbors”
  • “Vengeance: Killer Newlyweds”
  • “Very Scary People hosted by Donnie Wahlberg” (Seasons 1-4)

 

Select titles from the CNN Films library:

  • 9/11, directed by Peabody and Emmy Award winner Gédéon Naudet, Jules Naudet and James Hanlon
  • The End: Inside the Last Days of the Obama White House, directed by Emmy Award winner Toby Oppenheimer
  • The Flag, directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein
  • The Hunt for Planet B, directed by Academy Award nominee Nathaniel Kahn
  • The Lost Sons, directed by BAFTA Award nominee Ursula Macfarlane
  • Race for the Vaccine, narrated and produced by Emmy Award winner and CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
  • Soul Survivor, directed by Ky DickensWe Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World featuring Freida Pinto, Isha Sesay, and Meryl Streep

 

Select titles from the CNN Special Reports collection:

  • “Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump’s Insurrection”

CNN Original Content Available on Discovery+ Aug. 19

CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery have announced the launch of a dedicated CNN Originals hub on Discovery+ domestically.

Beginning August 19, Discovery+ subscribers will be able to access a curated selection of library CNN content through a new hub featuring premium programming from the network’s brands: CNN Original Series, CNN Films, and HLN Original Series.
 
“We’re thrilled to expand the reach of CNN and HLN’s powerful nonfiction programming to subscribers of Discovery+,” Chris Licht, chairman and CEO of CNN, said in a statement. “Our original series have an unrivaled ability to introduce and immerse audiences in stories of the people, places and cultures that make this world so fantastic and, at times, frightening. By offering our programming through Discovery+, more people can explore and experience CNN’s premium content.”
 
“True crime, food and travel programming are among the most-watched genres for Discovery+ viewers, so these titles from CNN will fit right in with our best-in-class collection of unscripted content,” J.B. Perrette, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming, said in a statement. “We’re excited to offer our subscribers access to a comprehensive offering of CNN Original Series available to stream with their existing subscription.”
 
Subscribers will have access to more than 800 episodes of current and legacy programming from the CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series library. Among the CNN Original Series titles available at launch are the 13-time Primetime Emmy Award-winning “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”; Primetime Emmy Award-winning “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy”; “The History of the Sitcom”; the five-time Primetime Emmy Award-winning “United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell”; “The History of Comedy,” executive produced by Sean Hayes, Todd Milliner and Mark Herzog; and “This is Life With Lisa Ling.” HLN Original Series titles including “How It Really Happened,” “Death Row Stories,” “The Hunt With John Walsh” and “Very Scary People” will also be available. Select titles from the CNN Films library will stream exclusively on Discovery+. Additional programming from CNN Films and CNN Original Series is available on HBO Max. The CNN Original “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” will also debut on HBO Max this fall. 

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“As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of CNN Original Series, this new collaboration allows us to share these smart and entertaining projects with a new and already engaged audience,” Amy Entelis, EVP of talent and content development for CNN worldwide, said in a statement. “We know subscribers will enjoy exploring over 800 episodes of award-winning programming from CNN and HLN Original Series and CNN Films.”
 
In addition to this initial offering of CNN Originals available to stream, select CNN Original Series and HLN Original Series will be added to the CNN Originals Hub and stream on Discovery+ in the future following their linear run on the cable networks. Titles will be announced in the months to come.
 
Beginning Aug. 19, Discovery+ subscribers can access the CNN Originals Hub within the Discovery+ app or on the web at discoveryplus.com.  

Chris Wallace to Relaunch Short-Lived CNN+ Interview Show on HBO Max in the Fall

CNN May 19 announced that short-lived CNN+ series “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” will relaunch on HBO Max this fall, with featured interviews also airing on CNN. The move is part of Warner Bros. Discovery to further meld brands within the company across the media company’s flagship HBO Max streaming platform.

Launched just before consummation of Discovery’s majority operational control of WarnerMedia, the CNN+ SVOD platform was largely greeted with indifference, reportedly generating less than 10,000 viewers a day.

Initial episodes of “Who’s Talking” featured interviews with CEOs and media moguls, Hollywood legends and newsmakers across politics, business, world affairs, sports and culture. Guests appearing throughout the show’s debut included former CEO of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger, former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, author of the 1619 Project Nikole Hannah-Jones, actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, and many more.

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“Part of the CNN brand is respectful, authentic and impactful interviews and one of the best interviewers in the business is Chris Wallace,” Chris Licht, CEO of CNN Worldwide, said in a statement.

Wallace will continue to serve as an anchor for CNN, joining the network in January 2022 after more than 50 years in broadcasting, including 18 years with Fox News, where he was the anchor of “Fox News Sunday.”

Throughout his almost two decades at Fox, Wallace participated in coverage of every major political event and secured high-profile interviews with dignitaries and U.S leaders. Wallace was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates to moderate the first presidential debate of the 2020 election season. In 2016, Wallace became the first journalist from Fox to moderate a general election presidential debate, and in August 2015, Wallace co-moderated the first GOP presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle along with the network’s second and third debates.

Wallace is also the New York Times best-selling author of Countdown bin Laden: The Untold Story of the 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice and Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World.

Before joining Fox, Wallace spent 14 years at ABC News, where he served as the chief correspondent for Primetime Thursday and a substitute host for Nightline. Prior to ABC, Wallace was NBC’s chief White House correspondent and moderated Meet the Press, making him the only person to have hosted two Sunday talk shows. He also anchored the Sunday edition of NBC Nightly News. Wallace began his career as a city hall reporter for the Boston Globe.