Ratings-challenged CNN will reshuffle the deck chairs on the slowly sinking network, pushing out left-leaning primetime host Don Lemon from his plum solo slot to a newly created morning team, boss Chris Licht announced Thursday.
Licht’s long-anticipated move to drop Lemon from prime time comes after new corporate overlord Warner Bros. Discovery pledged to shift CNN away from opinion-based shows to more centrist reporting of the news. Last month, the network canned Brian Stelter, the outspoken host of the now-canceled “Reliable Sources.”
Lemon — who often espoused his liberal opinions on his 10 p.m. show “Don Lemon Tonight” — helmed the lowest-ranked program in primetime in August, averaging 660,000 viewers to finish a distant third to Fox and MSNBC.
A rep for CNN said the network will be making an announcement on who will replace Lemon in the next few weeks.
Insiders have earmarked Kasie Hunt as a possible replacement for Lemon, or for the 9 p.m. slot, which was left open when Chris Cuomo was fired last year over his role in advising his older brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his sex harassment scandal.
In August, Fox News dominated with nine shows making the top 10 highest-rated cable news shows. Only MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pulled out a fifth-place ranking with 2.7 million viewers, lagging behind Fox’s “The Five” (3.4 million), “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (3.3 million), “Hannity” (2.9 million) and “Jesse Watters Primetime” (2.9 million).
The only CNN show to crack the top 25 was “Anderson Cooper 360” — in 25th place with 950,000 viewers.
Meanwhile, “New Day” came in 42nd place out of 82 cable news shows, bringing in 396,000 total viewers.
CNN did not provide a start date for the changes but said it will rename “New Day” and update its set later this year. Berman and Keilar will remain at the network, Licht said.
The exec is known for his previous success launching MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and revamping CBS’ morning show, which was then called “CBS This Morning.” Both shows featured lively conversation about current topics and news of the day with a broad selection of guests.
“There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,” Licht said Thursday. “They are each uniquely intelligent, reliable and compelling; together they have a rare and palpable chemistry. Combined with CNN’s resources and global newsgathering capabilities, we will offer a smart, bold and refreshing way to start the day.”
Harlow has most recently served as an anchor of “CNN Newsroom,” as well as a relief presenter at “New Day,” while Collins served as a White House correspondent for the network.