CNN Wednesday named Mark Thompson, previously chief executive of The New York Times Company and director general of the BBC, as its new chief executive and chairman, according to a New York Times report.
This announcement was made by Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s overseeing entity in a statement.
Warner Bros. Discovery’s statement noted Thompson will begin his new role at CNN October 9.
“Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement.
“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.”
According to the original report, one of Thompson’s biggest challenges at CNN will be the transition to a more digital-focused future as the cable business declines.
The network’s earlier attempt to transition to a streaming service fizzled shortly after CNN+ was announced. The network lured Chris Wallace from his longtime gig with Fox News as a marquee streaming service draw.
Within weeks of announcing the CNN+ service, it was shut down by the network as it retrenched in search of cost savings after its merger.
Thompson has a reputation for “restructuring legacy media assets and pursuing innovative growth strategies,” according to a report from Puck News, which noted he is much different than the network’s last CEO, Chris Licht.
Thompson “deftly architected a plan that rescued the business” at The New York Times “from its darkest financial hour in generations,” according to the Puck News report.
“His various restructurings and reorgs repositioned the Times Co. as a product-first company that successfully built out a portfolio of lifestyle businesses that supported the news gathering organization.”
He replaces Chris Licht, who was fired after one tumultuous year as head of the CNN empire. Licht was hired to replace Jeff Zucker after it was revealed he had an affair with a company employee.
Licht tried to correct what he considered excesses by network hosts that were manifested in coverage of topics like COVID-19 and former President Donald Trump, according to an NPR report.
He fired Brian Stelter and canceled the media criticism show “Reliable Sources,” which was CNN’s longest-running show.
Licht also fired White House reporter John Harwood and demoted prime-time star Don Lemon to a morning show. He also forced Jim Acosta to tone down his show’s content.
On-air talent pushed back against his returning the network to neutral, fact-based reporting and it eventually ended with Licht’s dismissal.
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