CNN is hoping to wake up its morning schedule.
The Warner Bros. Discovery-backed news outlet unveiled a new lineup for its morning block, installing Don Lemon, Kaitlan Collins and Poppy Harlow in place of the current hosts, John Berman and Brianna Keilar. Chris Licht, CNN’s chairman and chief executive, has had some of his greatest career success in morning news, having launched MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and retooled the program once known as “CBS This Morning.”
The new CNN program, retitled and with a new set, is expected to debut later this year — and looks to emulate some of the formats Licht has led in the past. Both “CBS This Morning” and “Morning Joe” hinged on spirited conversation among a broader group of panelists, some of whom talk more to each other than they do directly to viewers at home.
“There is no stronger combination of talent than Don, Poppy and Kaitlan to deliver on our promise of a game-changing morning news program,” said Licht, in a statement. “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.”
Lemon, who has notably held forth for CNN in primetime for the past several years, will end his run there, giving CNN a second slot to fill in the most-watched part of its schedule. The network has also been yeing ways to fill its 9 p.m. hour, which has been without a regular host since CNN parted ways with Chris Cuomo, and now will have to consider talent for Lemon’s 10 p.m. hour, too. Berman and Keilar are expected to find other assignments that will be announced at a later date.
Under Licht and the new parent company, CNN has articulated a strategy of trying to hew closer to the center than it has in the recent past. Under former chief Jeff Zucker, CNN personnel had leeway to express their passions and opinions on topics in the news. And yet, Lemon has been one of the CNN journalists most associated with that era. What’s more, as a White House correspondent, Collins often found herself pitted against the Trump administration, something viewers may continue to recall.
CNN’s current morning program, “New Day,” gained attention during the Trump era for in-your-face sessions between government officials and former anchors Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota, but the show has lagged its main rivals — Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” — for months in important viewership categories.
The shift will prompt yet another reworking of the network’s A.M. schedule, which has shuffled through a number of concepts since the long-running “American Morning” was taken off the air in 2011. CNN’s morning viewers have seen “Early Start,” “Starting Point,” and then, in 2013, “New Day.” That show launched with a trio of Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira, but eventually ended up as a duo of Cuomo and Camerota until Cuomo was moved to primetime in 2018. Executives initially billed the show as a modern version of “Today,” and were set to focus on hard and soft news, but CNN’s shift during the Trump era left “New Day” as a place for verbal battle.
The new concept seeks to forge a new chemistry between Lemon, who recently tried his hand at a live talk show centered on cultural issues for CNN’s now scuttled streaming service; Harlow, who covers business and hard news and has a reputation for preparedness; and Collins, a young breakout star whose profile has broadened since she was assigned to the White House under Zucker.