Some people only get one chance to run CNN. Amy Entelis is about to embark on her second.
The veteran news executive was one of three who took the reins at the Warner Bros. Discovery news outlet when Jeff Zucker, the previous chief, was forced out in February of last year after acknowledging a romantic relationship with Allison Gollust, once CNN’s chief marketing officer. Now Entelis will be part of a new trio leading the news giant after the Wednesday departure of former CEO Chris Licht.
The challenges facing CNN have not diminished. Entelis will guide CNN’s news operations along with Virginia Moseley, recently named to oversee editorial operations, and Eric Sherling, recently appointed head of U.S. programming. David Leavy, a longtime Zaslav lieutenant who was named chief operating officer at CNN last week, will oversee business activities. The entire group must keep CNN moving forward as the 2024 presidential election cycle draws near, even as the outlet’s ratings have fallen and its staff has been buffeted by job cuts, programming changes and a seemingly endless cycle of senior executives coming and going.
And while Warner Bros. Discovery is expected to search for a new CEO to replace Licht, whose tenure was cut abruptly Wednesday, Entelis is arguably the most experienced with CNN’s unique demands and much of the personnel who make it run. She has been involved in many of CNN’s most critical hires in recent years and also built a new business for the outlet by broadening its outreach into documentary films and series. One films, “Navalny,” centered on Russian activist Alexey Navalny, won an Oscar in the most recent Academy Awards.
It is unclear if Entelis would want to lead CNN on her own. She would face not only secular declines in the cable business — more subscribers are cutting out subscriptions in favor of streaming video — but a difficult boss. David Zaslav, CEO of parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, has a penchant for meddling relentlessly in the company’s vast operations, and has yet to demonstrate a mastery of news or scripted entertainment content. The executive has found success in running a portfolio of lower-margin networks that feature unscripted and documentary programming. Even so, say people familiar with the network, Entelis is viewed as the leading internal candidate for overall leadership of the operation.
Entelis has stayed at CNN despite a recent move that undermined her work. In October, Licht ordered a pullback from original series and films produced with outside partners. That spelled an end to series like “This Is Life With Lisa Ling” and “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” that have become part of the fabric at CNN. “Parts Unknown,” a travel and cuisine series led by Anthony Bourdain, has become as recognizable for CNN as Larry King’s long-running primetime celebrity-interview series. Entelis had spent a decade developing CNN Films, which acquired, commissioned, or executive produced more than 60 feature and short films, and her moves have been emulated by NBCUniversal and MSNBC. She has recently helped supervise a new hour-long documentary series, “The Whole Story,” that gives CNN correspondents a chance to follow a subject in depth.