COOs on the Move: David Leavy

Jun 5, 2023 | COOs on the Move, News, Operations Council News

CNN has just announced that they will be getting a new Chief Operating Officer (COO). David Leavy was with Warner Bros Discovery for 23 years will be taking on the new COO position at CNN on June 20th.

As reported by Wall Street Journal on June 1st, 2023 by Isabella Simonetti.

CNN Names David Leavy Chief Operating Officer

CNN tapped Warner Bros. Discovery WBD 3.39%increase. Chief Corporate Affairs Officer David Leavy as its chief operating officer, bringing in a seasoned executive from its parent company to help Chief Executive Chris Licht manage a network that is facing steep ratings declines.

A top lieutenant to Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav, Leavy has a varied background that includes experience in politics and communications.

In recent weeks, Leavy had been working closely with Licht on a search for a chief operating officer and the two had developed a close relationship leading to the appointment, a person close to the situation said. In his new role, Leavy will take over commercial, operational and promotional activities across CNN, according to an email from CNN detailing the appointment on Thursday.

He will start his new role on June 20 and will be based in Washington, D.C.

In the email, Licht said Leavy would work with him and the senior leadership team “to help transform our business as we get the full programming slate on the air, build out our digital future and grow the CNN brand around the world.”

Leavy joins CNN at a critical time for the all-news channel, which is celebrating its 43rd anniversary on Thursday. Since taking over as CEO last year, Licht has been experimenting with new programming to counter a ratings slide, including a new morning show that has struggled to gain traction.

The network recently received criticism from a number of pundits for hosting former President Donald Trump for a town hall in May. CNN defended its decision to hold the town hall.

While Zaslav has been effusive in his praise of Licht’s leadership and decision-making, the move to appoint Leavy as the network’s chief operating officer is seen by observers as an attempt to strengthen the management of the unit. Leavy is well-versed in the operating and management style of Zaslav and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Leavy will continue to have public-policy and social-responsibility oversight on behalf of Warner Bros. Discovery, the company said Thursday, and will report to Zaslav on those matters. He also remains part of Zaslav’s internal leadership team.

As chief operating officer of CNN, Leavy will report to Licht, and people close to Licht said Leavy’s hiring will give the CNN chief more freedom to focus on reinvigorating the network’s programming.

Warner Bros. Discovery has been in cost-cutting mode practically since the completion of the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia last year. Now, another significant round of layoffs is expected next month for its traditional cable networks and elsewhere at the company, people familiar with the matter said. CNN has already made significant cuts to its operations in the past year and continues to look for cost-saving measures, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

Most recently, Leavy played a crucial role in Warner Bros. Discovery’s efforts to get author J.K. Rowling to sign off on the company creating more Harry Potter-themed content, the Journal previously reported. Zaslav had said to colleagues since taking the reins at Warner Bros. after Discovery merged with the entertainment company last year that he was on a “mission from God” to get new Harry Potter content.

In April, the company announced plans to create several programs for its Max streaming service using the Potter books.

Since then, Leavy had been discussing a new role with Zaslav at the company, a person familiar with his thinking said. He was uninterested in relocating to Los Angeles or New York, where Zaslav now spends much of his time and where other top executives and aides are based.

Leavy also has political experience. He served as chief spokesman and senior director of public affairs for the National Security Council and as deputy press secretary for foreign affairs under former President Bill Clinton.

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