CNN’s Don Lemon demoted from primetime to host revamped morning program

New CNN CEO Chris Licht has been making some changes since taking over earlier this year, and he just announced his biggest alteration yet to the network’s primetime and morning show lineups.

Host Don Lemon will soon lose his primetime show and will be reshuffled to a new “reimagined” morning show that will replace the ratings-challenged “New Day” program, Fox News reported.

Lemon will co-host that new morning show with Poppy Harlow, who is currently a mid-morning co-host, and Kaitlan Collins, who is currently a White House correspondent, while the current “New Day” co-hosts, John Berman and Briana Keilar, will be reassigned elsewhere at the network at a later date.

Major alterations to the network’s lineup

“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 in a statement to announce the changes. “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 enjoyed his primetime gig for eight years, unsurprisingly put a positive spin on the impending changes at the network with a statement of his own.

“I am so appreciative of the ‘Don Lemon Tonight’ team, my wonderful, loyal viewers and everyone who has believed in me,” the host said. “I was honestly floored when Chris Licht asked me to do this and I’m honored by his belief in me. It’s going to be a thrill to take on this challenge with Poppy and Kaitlan.”

Licht explains his changes to the network

Deadline reported that it obtained an internal memo sent to CNN employees from Licht to announce the latest changes taking place and said, “This is not an incremental change. Our morning news program will debut with a new name, new set, and a totally new format.”

“We spent considerable time looking at talent from both inside and outside the network, and in the end, we determined the very best trio was already here at CNN. I am thrilled Don, Poppy and Kaitlan see the vision and are up for the challenge in this very competitive space,” he continued.

Licht went on to reveal that Berman and Keilar would be “given new assignments” once the new morning program was in place and that he was “incredibly appreciative of their flexibility during this time,” and further noted that all of the production teams for the impacted programs would remain in place.

Ratings can’t get much worse

The New York Post reported that the two programs getting the axe, “Don Lemon Tonight” and “New Day,” were both big losers in terms of ratings on the network that has struggled in recent years to keep pace with far better-rated competitors Fox News and MSNBC.

Lemon’s program in the 10 pm ET slot routinely came in at a distant third place with an average of only 660,000 viewers during August, while “New Day,” which airs from 6-9 am ET, averaged around 396,000 total viewers to rank 42nd out of 82 cable news programs.

It remains to be seen if these changes will help to revitalize CNN, as Licht clearly seeks to do, or, as the Post put it, is simply an act to “reshuffle the deck chairs on the slowly sinking network.”