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CNN names Mark Thompson its next CEO

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CNN names Mark Thompson its next CEO

CNN announced Wednesday that Mark Thompson, former chief executive of The New York Times Company and CEO of the BBC, would be its next president.

Thompson will begin on October 9, Warner Bros. Discovery, the network’s parent company, said in a press release.

“Mark is a true innovator who has transformed two of the world’s most respected news organizations for the digital age,” David Zaslav, chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Discovery, said in a statement. “Her strategic vision of him, his track record in transformational leadership and his sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this crucial time.”

CNN, one of the world’s leading news organizations, has been hit by an almost endless series of crises over the past 18 months. Ratings have plummeted, profits have fallen and the chain is still reeling from the tenure of Chris Licht as chief executive, who was fired in June amid plummeting staff morale.

Since Licht’s ouster, the network has been run by three CNN veterans (Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling) as well as David Leavy, Zaslav’s longtime lieutenant.

Thompson, 66, joins the network with more experience managing a sprawling news organization than Licht, a former producer of morning and late-night shows.

Thompson started as a trainee at the BBC in 1979 and rose to managing director, the station’s highest post, in 2004. He joined The Times Company as its chief executive in 2012 and was part of a group of executives who financially revitalized the company greatly expanding its digital subscription business.

When Thompson took over at the Times Company, a subscriber-only paywall for the newspaper’s website was still in its infancy. In his early days at the company, he said in an interview with a British publication two years ago, he was met with “skepticism” that it was possible to significantly expand the number of digital subscribers.

“I just thought we weren’t doing well enough,” he said. “And we weren’t doing it smart enough. And we weren’t using the data correctly.”

The Times now has nearly 10 million subscribers, more than nine million of them exclusively digital. Thompson left the company in 2020 and was succeeded by Meredith Kopit Levien, who expanded the underwriting strategy.

One of CNN’s main challenges will be its transition to a more digital-focused future as the cable business declines.

Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that it would launch a dedicated CNN channel on Max, the company’s streaming service, in late September. Unlike its cable and broadcast news competitors, CNN Max will simulcast at least four hours of live programming from its parent network, including some flagship shows.

Thompson will also have to calm the nerves of a network with more than 4,000 employees around the world.

In December 2021, CNN’s top primetime star Chris Cuomo was fired during an ethics investigation. Two months later, CNN president Jeff Zucker was abruptly ousted from the network for failing to disclose a romantic relationship with a colleague. In April 2022, just days after Warner Bros. Discovery was created, Zaslav and top executives quickly pulled the plug on CNN+, an expensive streaming platform that Zucker had purported to represent the network’s digital future.

This year, Don Lemon, the prime-time host-turned-morning-show host, was fired shortly after he made comments widely perceived as age-discriminatory and sexist. Then, in May, Licht oversaw a televised forum with former President Donald J. Trump that was heavily criticized, including publicly by CNN eminence Christiane Amanpour.

Over the past two months, the four people who run the network have made programming changes, including installing a full-time anchor for CNN’s morning show and ending a prime-time lineup that had been changing. for more than a year.

Amid all the turmoil, viewership has dropped dramatically. In August, MSNBC extended its weekday prime-time ratings lead over CNN to its largest margin since February 2020. Fox News’ lead is even bigger.

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