Abby Phillip promoted in CNN’s first big moves since Chris Licht ouster

CNN has been in a state of flux since chief executive Chris Licht was ousted in early June, with the network run by a quadrumvirate of programming and business-side executives. But on Monday, the network made a major splash in solidifying a prime-time daily lineup that has been unsettled for nearly a year.

Abby Phillip, a former Washington Post reporter who has hosted the network’s Sunday morning political talk show “Inside Politics,” will become the permanent host of the 10 p.m. weekday slot that was helmed for many years by Don Lemon before his ill-fated move to mornings. It will be called “CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip.”

The network also announced that CNN’s chief legal analyst, Laura Coates, will host its 11 p.m. weekday hour.

The promotion for the two Black journalists comes after concerns expressed earlier this year by some CNN staffers that the April firing of Lemon and reports that Coates would lose her temporary host role at 11 p.m. had left a lack of on-air diversity in the network’s most prominent hours.

CNN also announced Monday that veteran anchor Alisyn Camerota, who has occasionally hosted the 10 p.m. hour, will now focus on long-form projects for the network. “Inside Politics” will now be hosted on Sundays by CNN’s chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

These programming changes will roll out over the next few weeks and months, a network spokesperson said.

Phillip’s appointment fills a vacuum in CNN’s evening hours that had lingered since last year when Licht — newly appointed to run the network — made CNN’s morning show his top editorial priority. At a time when CNN’s 9 p.m. slot was still sitting vacant after the December 2021 firing of Chris Cuomo, Licht decided to move Lemon from 10 p.m. to the revamped “CNN This Morning” last fall.

It was a move with calamitous results for both Lemon’s career and Licht’s. The host was let go after disastrous ratings and sexist comments, and Licht was fired a month and a half later. Co-host Kaitlan Collins left the show as well, to take Cuomo’s old spot at 9 p.m. On Monday, CNN announced that chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly will become a co-host of the morning show, along with Poppy Harlow, who has held the show down since the departure of her founding co-hosts.

In addition, Chris Wallace, the former Fox News anchor who joined CNN to launch a streaming show on the since-shuttered CNN Plus platform, will debut a new weekly show, the network said Monday. It will be separate from his “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” program, which already airs Friday nights on CNN and on the streaming service Max.

In a statement, the four executives who are now running CNN on an interim basis, said that the moves “are strengthening our reporting excellence throughout the schedule, elevating our ability to tell great stories across platforms, and doubling down on CNN’s position as the most trusted name in news.”

During Licht’s tenure, CNN’s ratings declined significantly, though all cable news networks have faced challenges in retaining viewers who have increasingly pivoted to streaming programming or tuned out altogether.

In the month of July, CNN averaged only 534,000 total viewers in prime time, well behind both Fox News and MSNBC. Across the entire day, the network averaged just 426,000 total viewers, well below MSNBC’s 723,000 and Fox News’ 1,071,000.

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