CNN has named Mark Thompson as its new CEO, replacing Chris Licht

Mark Thompson, former CEO of The New York Times, has been chosen as the next president of CNN, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday.

He will replace Chris Licht, who was ousted in June after a short and turbulent spell as network leader.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to join CNN after years of watching and competing with it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said in a statement. “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and start working with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

Thompson, who takes up his position on October 9, comes to CNN after a long career in media. He spent eight years as CEO of The New York Times Company, where he oversaw significant growth in digital subscription revenue, which helped offset losses in print distribution and advertising. He stepped down from that role in 2020, after saying he had “achieved everything I set out to do.”

Thompson came to The Times after spending most of his career at the BBC, where he held the position of Managing Director.

The company announced Wednesday that in addition to overseeing CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, he will serve as editor-in-chief for the network.

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery: “There is no more experienced, respected and capable executive in news today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN global into the future.”

Zaslav called Thompson “a true innovator who has transformed two of the world’s most respected news organizations into the digital age,” and said that his “strategic vision, proven track record of transformational leadership, and unbridled passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism.” at this pivotal time.”

Zaslav was similarly glowing in his praise of Licht when he appointed him in February 2022 to take over for Jeff Zucker, the charismatic and popular boss who commanded the loyalty of the network’s staff before being forced to resign over an undisclosed romantic relationship with a person. a close colleague.

But Licht did not find a foothold in CNN, as he gradually lost the confidence of employees and then the company’s management, which decided to remove him from his position and put the network in the hands of four executives – Amy Intellis, Virginia Mosley, Eric Shearling, David C. Levy – until a leader is appointed. new. (These executives will continue to play their roles, but will now report to Thompson.)

The breaking point was a searing Atlantic profile that painted a picture of an ineffective and out of touch leader. Licht also faced backlash, at home and abroad, after CNN hosted a town hall with Donald Trump in May that quickly turned into a circus.

Zaslav did not conduct formal research when hiring Licht and did not interview any other candidates. This time, Zaslav promised CNN staff a lengthy search, which he said in early June would take “months.” This research only took about two and a half months.

CNN needs a new leader after Chris Licht. Would anyone want the job?

Thompson has located his work at CNN, which has recently trailed both MSNBC and Fox News in terms of viewership. In July, the network averaged 426,000 viewers throughout the day, compared to 723,000 viewers for MSNBC and more than 1 million viewers for Fox News. In prime time, CNN averaged just 534,000 viewers, less than half of what MSNBC brought in.

But the network is hopeful that a new primetime lineup — outlined by CNN’s interim leadership team — will make a difference.

The network also places more emphasis on broadcast programming. One of Licht’s first responsibilities as CEO was to announce the closure of CNN Plus, the company’s $100 million bet on streaming. The service was supposed to be a lifeline for a future in which the network no longer received the majority of its revenue from contracts with cable television companies.

After more than a year in the streaming world, the company last week announced the late September launch of CNN Max, a 24-hour dedicated news hub on its Max streaming service, which includes TV content from across the Warner Bros. portfolio. Wider Discovery. from networks. CNN Max will offer new programming from CNN personalities Jim Acosta and Jim Sciutto as well as live broadcasts of some shows from the network’s regular television lineup.

At an industry conference in November 2021, Thompson expressed concerns about the ability of TV news networks in the United States to innovate and attract younger audiences. “News feels like old-fashioned broadcasting aimed entirely at older audiences.” He said at the event. “I live in the United States and it seems (TV news) hasn’t completely changed since the 1980s. I think he’s in deep trouble.”

In the announcement on Wednesday, Thompson expressed his willingness to address the structural challenges facing the network and the broader television industry.

“The world needs accurate and trustworthy news now more than ever before, and never have we had more ways to meet this need at home and abroad,” he said. “Where others see trouble, I see opportunity.”

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