CNN wants comedian to save network in prime-time war: report

CNN reportedly wants a comedian to keep the network from becoming a laughing stock in primetime ratings.

According to Semafor, executives want someone who is both comedic and newsworthy — like Bill Maher, Arsenio Hall, Trevor Noah or Jon Stewart — to fill the 9-11 p.m. slot.

The two-hour “news entertainment” show would appeal to viewers who would typically opt for programming from Netflix, ESPN and HGTV rather than the traditional cable news junkie who hops between CNN and MSNBC, the outlet reported.

“They’re looking for their version of John Oliver,” a source told Semafor, referring to the British prankster, who has his own show on HBO.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s cable news agency has fallen far behind rivals Fox News and MSNBC in the race for prime-time ratings, despite the sweeping changes that Chris Licht, CNN’s new boss, has made since taking the helm last spring.

Bill Maher, the host of "Real time with Bill Maher" on HBO, was discussed as a possibility, according to one report.
Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” has been discussed as a possibility, according to a report.
Getty Images for Vanity Fair

He moved Don Lemon from his 10 p.m. slot to the morning and failed to find a permanent replacement for Chris Cuomo at 9 p.m. after he was fired from the network. CNN pulls a fraction of what anchors on MSNBC and Fox pull during the two-hour block, according to recent ratings.

Adding Maher would make the most sense since his show “Real Time With Bill Maher” is already being produced in-house by sister company HBO, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, according to Semafor.

Last week, news site Puck reported that CNN was in talks to air segments of Maher’s “Real Time” show on its network.

Trevor Noah, the former host of "The daily News" on Comedy Central was also considered a possibility.
Trevor Noah, the former host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, has also been considered a possibility.
Variety via Getty Images

Licht is reportedly smitten with Stewart, the comedian and actor credited with pioneering the “news entertainment” format as the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

But Stewart is signed to Apple, which produces his podcast, The Problem with Jon Stewart.

Stewart’s replacement as The Daily Show host, Noah, recently left after seven seasons.

Hall, who hosted a late-night show from 1989 to 1994 and again from 2013 to 2014, is not considered a serious candidate, according to Semafor.

CNN’s foray into comedy may follow Fox News Channel’s lead.

Fox News, the dominant cable news agency, airs the nightly comedy show Gutfeld! at 11pm, with host Greg Gutfield – whose ratings have surpassed those of big-budget competitors on traditional broadcast networks like Stephen Colbert on CBS and Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

Before taking on the role of CEO at CNN, Licht served as executive producer on Colbert’s The Late Show.

CNN executives have also reportedly put Arsenio Hall, a former late-night host, as a candidate.
CNN executives have also reportedly put Arsenio Hall, a former late-night host, as a candidate.

Executives at NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast, are reportedly discussing the possibility of moving Seth Meyer’s 12:30 pm nightly show to MSNBC.

In less than a year in office, Licht has cut hundreds of jobs and reshuffled the network’s lineup to move CNN away from comment-driven and partisan opinions in favor of news-only. CNN wants comedian to save network in prime-time war: report

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Emma Bowman by emailing

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