Warner Bros. Discovery hires Mark Thompson to become CNN chairman & CEO

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson, the former BBC and New York Times chief, has been appointed chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide.

Thompson takes up the role on 9 October and reports to David Zaslav, CEO at CNN owner, Warner Bros. Discovery.

His remit includes leading CNN’s strategy, operations and business units, including its global networks, channels and programming across broadcast, streaming and digital as well as CNN’s approximately 4,000 employees worldwide.

He will act as editor-in-chief, ultimately responsible for all CNN content.

Calming CNN’s turmoil?

Thompson stepped down from his most recent role atop The New York Times Co. in 2020 and replaces Chris Licht, who departed CNN in June after just 13 months in the role.

His ousting came just days after an article in The Atlantic raised questions about his leadership, and follows criticisms of management mis-steps, including how CNN handled a town hall interview with former US president Donald Trump, amid declining ratings for the news network.

An acting leadership team of Amy Entelis, EVP of talent & content development; Virginia Moseley, EVP of editorial; Eric Sherling, EVP of US programming; and David Leavy, commercial COO, has been in charge since Licht’s exit.

They will now report to Thompson.

CNN has been in turmoil over the past year, with Licht taking over as CEO and chairman in May 2022, replacing Jeff Zucker, who resigned from the post after failing to disclose a “consensual relationship” with a colleague, following almost a decade in the role.

His appointment heralded a year of change at CNN, including the closure of its much-hyped SVOD CNN+, just a month after its launch. Execs including Andrew Morse, then EVP & chief digital officer of CNN Worldwide, were among those to depart as the news network made a wave of staff cuts.

The organisation has also made changes to how it approached “premium longform content” and pared down its third-party series commissionsfollowing success with shows such as Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy and Navalny.

‘Formidable force’

The hope will be that Thompson’s experience can now help to right CNN, ahead of the US presidential elections in 2024.

Announcing the hire, Zaslav said: “There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team and lead CNN Worldwide into the future.

“Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations. His strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

Thompson added: “The world needs accurate trustworthy news now more than ever and we’ve never had more ways of meeting that need at home and abroad. Where others see disruption, I see opportunity. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

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