CNN Taps David Leavy as Chief Operating Officer

CNN's chief executive Chris Licht has received criticism since appointed last year.

Chris Licht, the CEO of CNN Worldwide, appointed a new chief operating officer yesterday (June 1). David Leavy, who has been with Discovery and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) for 23 years, will take the role and begin on June 20.

David Leavy smiles.
David Leavy is the new CNN Worldwide chief operating officer. CNN

Leavy currently works as the chief corporate affairs officer for Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company, where his responsibilities include talent casting and corporate communications. Before last year’s merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia that created Warner Bros. Discovery, Leavy was the chief corporate operations officer at Discovery. In that role, he managed the company’s talent operations, public policy and business operations.

“David (Leavy)’s deep operational experience, institutional knowledge and key industry relationships perfectly complements (sic) the strengths of our leadership team,” Licht said in a company statement.

Licht joined CNN as the chairman and CEO last year and has since drawn some criticism. The executive faced blowback for airing an interview with Donald Trump last month and for canceling the contracts with prominent television personalities including Brian Stelter and John Harwood. While cable news ratings are down across the board, CNN’s viewership has reportedly fallen the most of any news network. In March, CNN’s ratings were down 61 percent, more than Fox’s 27 percent and MSNBC’s 12 percent, according to Nielsen. Employee morale has also reportedly declined since Licht took the position. Leavy had been helping Licht find a chief operating officer, and when one candidate fell through, Leavy offered himself for the role, CNBC reported.

Leavy has worked with David Zaslav, the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, for 17 years. His appointment could allow Zaslav greater insight into the operations of the teetering news network. The move could also allow Licht more room to focus on programming and editorial strategy rather than on analytics, according to CNBC. Leavy has experience in managing data strategy and logistics from his time at Discovery, and will reportedly not have a say in CNN’s editorial work.

During his time at Discovery, Leavy helped the company go public and launch Discovery+, its streaming platform. He also led the development of its social responsibility programs, which include company donations to the Covid-19 response and to stopping childhood hunger. Before joining Discovery in 2000, Leavy worked as the chief spokesperson and public affairs director for the National Security Council, a forum the U.S. president uses for making decisions regarding national security and foreign policy. He was also the deputy press secretary for foreign affairs in the Clinton White House.

CNN Taps David Leavy as Chief Operating Officer