CNN names former BBC and New York Times executive Mark Thompson as new leader

by Lucas Garcia
Toddler Survival

Former BBC and New York Times executive, Mark Thompson, has been designated as the new leader for CNN, a decision made in an effort to reverse the trajectory of a news organization that has faced turbulence over the last two years, marked by the departure of two leaders and a decline in viewership.

The appointment of Mark Thompson as Chair and CEO of CNN comes from David Zaslav, the head of Warner Bros. Discovery, the network’s parent company. This announcement was unveiled on Wednesday, signaling the end of Chris Licht’s tenure, who was dismissed in June, along with a temporary four-member team that had been overseeing CNN.

Mark Thompson, who concluded his role as President and CEO of The New York Times in 2020 after eight years, is recognized for his instrumental role in reshaping the company into a digital-centric entity that relies more on paid subscribers than the dwindling advertising market that has plagued numerous newspapers. Thompson, originally from England, held the position of Director-General at the BBC from 2004 to 2012.

Licht’s departure followed a tumultuous 13 months where CNN lost significant ground to both Fox News and MSNBC in terms of popularity, with opinionated news resonating more among viewers during a time of intense political polarization. Licht had advocated for CNN to adopt a more moderate stance and leverage its capacity for gathering news.

His downfall was further hastened by a critical profile published in The Atlantic magazine, revealing his struggle to foster connections with numerous employees who remained loyal to his predecessor, Jeff Zucker. Zucker had been compelled to step down in February 2022 due to his failure to disclose a romantic relationship with another executive within the network.

In addition to declining ratings, CNN’s financial performance has taken a hit, with the network’s profits dwindling from $1.08 billion in 2020 to $892 million in 2022, as reported by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Shortly after Licht’s appointment to his role, CNN’s new parent company decided to discontinue a high-profile streaming service that had barely been operational for a few weeks. This month, the network unveiled that CNN news content would now be integrated into its Max streaming service.

CNN also parted ways with two prominent prime-time hosts over the past couple of years: Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. The latter departure was precipitated by an unsuccessful transition to a new morning show.

During Licht’s tenure, a stable prime-time lineup was never solidified. The temporary leadership team, comprised of Amy Entelis, David Leavy, Virginia Moseley, and Eric Sherling, recently formulated a new lineup that introduced Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip, and Laura Coates to weeknight roles, while seasoned journalists Christiane Amanpour and Chris Wallace assumed new weekend hosting duties.

News of Thompson’s selection was initially reported by Puck on Tuesday evening.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Leadership Transition

Who is Mark Thompson and what is his role at CNN?

Mark Thompson is a former executive from BBC and The New York Times. He has been appointed as the Chair and CEO of CNN, with the aim of revitalizing the news organization after a period of leadership changes and declining viewership.

Why was Chris Licht replaced as the head of CNN?

Chris Licht, the former head of CNN, was let go after facing challenges during his 13-month tenure. The network’s viewership had fallen behind competitors like Fox News and MSNBC, and opinionated news had gained more traction during a politically polarized time.

What changes did Mark Thompson bring to The New York Times?

During his eight-year tenure as President and CEO of The New York Times, Mark Thompson transformed the company into a digital-first organization, relying more on paid subscribers rather than the struggling advertising market that had affected many newspapers.

How did Mark Thompson’s leadership impact The New York Times and BBC?

Mark Thompson served as Director-General of the BBC from 2004 to 2012, overseeing a significant period of the organization’s development. His subsequent role at The New York Times saw him guide the company’s shift towards a digital-focused approach, bolstering its reliance on subscription-based revenue models.

What were the financial challenges faced by CNN?

CNN experienced a decline in profits, with earnings dropping from $1.08 billion in 2020 to $892 million in 2022. This financial decline coincided with a period of leadership changes and shifts in the media landscape.

What prompted the firing of prime-time hosts Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon?

Over the past two years, CNN dismissed two popular prime-time hosts, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. The decision was influenced by various factors, including the network’s evolving programming strategy and audience preferences.

How did CNN’s corporate changes affect its streaming services?

Following Chris Licht’s appointment, CNN’s parent company terminated a prominently publicized streaming service shortly after its launch. The network later announced plans to integrate CNN news content into its Max streaming service.

Who forms the interim leadership team at CNN?

The interim leadership team at CNN consists of Amy Entelis, David Leavy, Virginia Moseley, and Eric Sherling. They have been responsible for managing the network during the transitional period and played a role in determining new prime-time and weekend lineups.

What impact did political polarization have on CNN’s viewership?

During Chris Licht’s tenure, CNN’s viewership suffered due to increased political polarization. Opinionated news content gained more attention from audiences, resulting in CNN falling behind competitors who aligned with prevailing viewpoints.

What was the outcome of the Atlantic magazine profile on Chris Licht?

A profile published in The Atlantic magazine portrayed Chris Licht’s challenges in building connections with employees, many of whom were loyal to his predecessor. This profile contributed to his eventual departure as the head of CNN.

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MediaMaven August 30, 2023 - 9:33 pm

streaming blunders hurtin cnn, they need 2 get their act 2gether. max sounds promisin tho, hope it sticks.

CarolineEcoPol August 30, 2023 - 9:51 pm

cnn needs help, true. but politics n polarizashun? cnt we hav news with less drama, more fact?

NewsNerd123 August 31, 2023 - 4:43 am

chris cuomo, don lemon gone? big moves, news landscape shiftin. licht tried, but cnn gotta roll with the changes.

JournalistJoe August 31, 2023 - 5:52 am

wow mark thompson takin over cnn? big shot from bbc n ny times. hope he cn fix the mess, viewership down, money down, they need a savior.

CryptoKing August 31, 2023 - 10:12 am

lol no mentn of crypto, me sad. politics, money, autos but no crypto? cnn shud covr dat 2, big thngs hapnin.

EconEnthusiast August 31, 2023 - 10:30 am

thompson did gud at ny times, digital-first stuff, ads dying. maybe he cn do same 4 cnn. ads sux, subs r in, need dat chedda.


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