CNN Pulls Back on Original Series and Films From Outside Partners

CNN will “no longer rely” on commissioning longform projects from outside partners, signaling that the news juggernaut will pull back on original documentary series and films like “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and the critically hailed “Navalny.”

“Our long-term plan will no longer rely on commissioned projects with outside partners,” CEO Chris Licht wrote in a memo sent to staff on Friday. “This was a very difficult decision to make, and it was based, in large part, on the ever-increasing cost of commissioning third-party premium content. However, I want to be clear that longform content remains an important pillar of our programming.”

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Under Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and and content development for CNN Worldwide, the outlet has built a slate of Emmy-winning content over the course of a decade, most of which now has homes on discovery+ and HBO Max.

This includes more than 60 documentary features, which began with a strategic acquisition of “Blackfish” at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Other notable CNN films include “Apollo 11,” “RBG,” “Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street,” “Three Identical Strangers,” “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” and “The Last Movie Stars.”

The CNN Original Series banner also boasts 45 multipart show, including “United Shades of America” with W. Kamau Bell, “This is Life” with Lisa Ling and the 60-episode survey of modern American history in the “Decades Series”: The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, The Nineties, and The 2000s.

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“This team has also formed strong relationships across the film and television industry, and we are very grateful to all our partners over the years who have been critical to our success,” Licht continued, adding, “I want to thank Amy for her continued partnership and for the extraordinary work that she and her team have contributed to CNN.”

In 2023, CNN will air six series and films each, including opioid doc “American Pain,” “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico” and five-part miniseries “See It Loud: The History of Black Television,” from LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company. The executive said the goal is to prioritize flexibility and design an approach to creating longform content in-house.

On Thursday, Licht told employees that CNN would drastically cut its budget before the end of the year, which will result in layoffs and a “noticeable change” for the network, due to the downturning economy, as well as the billions-dollar debt facing parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.

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