Neeraj Khemlani is stepping down as the president and co-head of CBS News and Stations.
In a memo to staffers, Khemlani said that he had signed a first look deal with the network to develop documentaries, scripted series and books for Simon & Schuster.
“It’s an opportunity that will allow me to write, report and develop stories that I’ve long wanted to pursue,” he wrote.
George Cheeks, the president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, said that he will update staffers soon with information about new leadership and structure for the news division.
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Khemlani and Wendy McMahon were named co-heads of CBS News and Stations in 2021, in a restructuring that combined two divisions of the company.
Since then, the news division has expanded and revamped its streaming channels, rebranded CBS’s morning news shows and re-signed Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell to new contracts. They’ve also hired such figures as Robert Costa and Cecilia Vega. The morning show and evening newscast have remained in third place compared to their broadcast rivals, while CBS parent Paramount Global has been under pressure to cut costs as the industry grapples with the migration of viewers from linear platforms.
Cheeks wrote that Khemlani “will leave CBS News with our broadcasts stronger and our streaming footprint bigger and better,” citing his talent hires as well as business plans he put in place to “drive more revenue, which is essential in a challenging environment for all media companies.”
Khemlani was named to the post after the resignation of Susan Zirinsky, who herself had just a two-year tenure and reportedly expressed a desire to return to producing. She now leads a network production entity, See It Now Studios.
In his memo, Khemlani said “there’s no question that this has been a transformative period: We built the nest morning show in the history of CBS News, reimagined our streaming channel, and invested in the reporting ranks and the D.C. bureau — including the Evening News — to position the network for excellence in the next presidential election.”
Khemlani had earlier been a vice president at Hearst Corporation and senior executive at Yahoo!, after serving as a producer for 60 Minutes.
His departure is the latest shakeup among the ranks atop network news divisions. Noah Oppenheim departed as president of NBC News in January as part of a reorganization, with Rebecca Blumenstein taking on a newly created role as president of editorial. Chris Licht exited CNN in June following a tumultuous tenure of just over a year.
The news division leadership jobs, which combine editorial responsibilities with talent relations and cost control, have become even more difficult as media companies grapple with the evolution of business models, something that has led to high profile layoffs. ABC News President Kim Godwin, who has led the network division since 2021, presided over the layoffs of 50 people in March, including some longtime executives and staffers, as part of the elimination of thousands of jobs from The Walt Disney Co. That led to extensive intrigue and concern over who was let go amid the restructuring. Earlier in the year, she oversaw the exit of Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes from GMA3 after the pulled from the broadcast amid tabloid headlines that they were having an affair.
The memos from Khemlani and Cheeks are below:
I have some news to share today, and I don’t want to bury the lede. After an exhilarating run, and before the next season starts, I’ve decided to step back from my current role and start a new exciting chapter. I’m pleased to share that I’ve signed a multi-year, multi-platform first look deal with CBS to develop content – including documentaries, scripted series and books for Simon & Schuster. It’s an opportunity that will allow me to write, report and develop stories that I’ve long wanted to pursue.
There’s no question that this has been a transformative period: we built the best morning show in the history of CBS News, reimagined our streaming channel, and invested in the reporting ranks and the D.C. Bureau – including the Evening News – to position the network for excellence in the next presidential election. We maintained the #1 position of our iconic weekend programs, successfully developed and launched business plans to grow digital revenue that will sustain CBS News for the next generation and elevated and promoted so many of the people who work here day after day to deliver on our journalistic mission. I’m so proud of what all of you have accomplished – the scores of journalistic wins, the superb storytelling, the creativity that enhanced every aspect of our programming – that has put this division on a stronger path forward.
It’s with all of this progress in mind that I know it’s the right time for me to switch gears and focus on the reporting I love, the creative content I love, and, most importantly, the family I love. While I will undoubtedly miss the day to day with so many wonderful colleagues, I’m looking forward to slipping my reporter’s notebook back into my pocket and heading out on a new adventure.
I’d also like to thank George, Wendy and the entire team at CBS News and Stations for all the work, inspiration and friendship over the last few years.
All the best,
Team – You just heard from Neeraj about his decision to pursue the next chapter in his journalism career. He and I have been discussing these passion projects and his potential transition for some time.
Neeraj will leave CBS News with our broadcasts stronger and our streaming footprint bigger and better. The talent he recruited to the division the past few years is best in class. He has put new business plans in place to drive more revenue, which is essential in a challenging environment for all media companies.
We are also now much closer to fully realizing a local-to-national-to-global news operation with more platforms to showcase our outstanding news reporting. Thanks to Neeraj and Wendy’s operational acumen, CBS News and Stations is much better positioned for its multi-platform future. I’m so proud of the journalism on display every day from this division. The quality and diversity of stories we tell is so vital to the viewers we serve.
Please join me in wishing Neeraj much success in his next chapter. I will update you soon with information about the new leadership and structure for the division.
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