“CBS This Morning” exec producer Chris Licht has been tapped to serve as showrunner of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” a move to strengthen the production team on CBS’ late-night franchise that has struggled to find its sea legs since Colbert took over the show last September.
Industry insiders had been anticipating that reinforcements were coming to “Late Show” given the show’s uneven performance during the past few months. Colbert has excelled at interviews with intriguing newsmakers and guests that depart from the traditional late-night but other elements of the show have been less resonant.
Licht fills a big void on the show as Colbert had essentially been serving as showrunner as well as host. Licht’s strong track record in turning “CBS This Morning” into a contender in the morning show race made him a natural choice for CBS. Licht and Colbert are said to have hit it off over a long dinner last week.
“I’m thrilled Chris is joining us at ‘The Late Show.’ I am so impressed by what he has done at ‘CBS This Morning,’ ” said Colbert. “And I trust someone has told him he doesn’t have to get up at 4 a.m. anymore.”
Licht has been VP of programming for CBS News since 2011 and exec producer of “CBS This Morning” since its launch in 2012. He will be succeeded on the a.m. show by Ryan Kadro, one of his lieutenants. As part of his move to “Late Show,” Licht has also been named exec VP of special programming for CBS Corp., consulting on content for divisions across the Eye.
“You can’t work in this business without being in awe of Stephen Colbert and his talents,” Licht said. “The chance to work with Stephen and help build a valuable late night franchise, while continuing to grow at CBS, is truly an honor. I can’t wait to get started.”
Licht spearheaded the launch of “CBS This Morning,” giving the show a newsier focus than its rivals on NBC and ABC, with less lifestyle and celebrity-focused material and more emphasis on discussion of news and trends among the anchor trio of Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King. The show’s success has put CBS in its most competitive position in the morning show race in nearly 30 years. “CBS This Morning” has also nabbed a Peabody and other kudos.
“Everyone in the company has admired what Chris has done for CBS in the morning,” said David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios, which produces “Late Show.” “The opportunity to bring him to ‘The Late Show’ is like adding an outstanding head coach to a great team.” Added CBS Entertainment president Glenn Geller: “Chris’ vision and track record of leading signature shows in important dayparts is a great next step to build on (‘Late Show’s’) terrific foundation.”
Before joining CBS, Licht worked for MSNBC, serving as co-creator and the original executive producer of “Morning Joe.” Before “Morning Joe,” Licht was a senior producer and then executive producer of MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country.” He began his career in news at KNBC-TV Los Angeles.
(Pictured: Chris Licht, Stephen Colbert)