CNN names Mark Thompson its next CEO

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CNN has selected Mark Thompson as its next CEO.

Thompson’s name had previously been mentioned as a possible successor to Chris Licht, who departed the network in June 2023.

Thompson’s appointment was announced Aug. 30, 2023.

“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,” said David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN, in a statement.

Thompson has served as CEO of The New York Times and director-general of the BBC.

Having a leader in place will likely prove crucial as CNN and cable TV in general has seen its audience slip in favor of streaming, though Thompson isn’t expected to officially take over until Oct. 9, 2023.

CNN notably launched streaming service CNN+ in 2022, only to shut it down less than a month later, shortly after the WBD purchase closed.

Earlier in August 2023, CNN announced it would take another stab at streaming with an offering called CNN Max that will be part of the WBD’s Max streamer.

Back on the linear side, CNN has struggled to keep viewers on its linear offerings, typically coming in behind both Fox’s cable commentary channel and MSNBC. It recently announced another major overhaul to its schedule, which includes changes to the primetime lineup.

Thompson will be the third CEO in 18 months following the short-lived tenure of Licht, who was fired after a damning profile of him appeared in The Atlantic under the banner “Inside the meltdown at CNN.”

Prior to his exit, Licht had implemented a significant update to the network’s dayside schedule, launching “CNN NewsCentral” and “CNN This Morning.”

He also made Kaitlan Collins, fresh off hosting a controversial town hall with Donald Trump, the network’s 9 p.m. anchor, a role that has failed to significantly boost ratings.

Prior to that, “This Morning” was headed for implosion after Licht fired one of the show’s co-anchors, Don Lemon, who was facing a storm of controversy about on-air comments about a female politician being “past her prime” as well as reported poor treatment of coworkers.

Collins also co-anchored “This Morning,” but left for the primetime hour. Only Poppy Harlow remains from the original lineup, with Phil Mattingly named her permanent co-anchor.

Licht also attempted to reshape the 9 p.m. hour around single-topic “events” with topics decided by the news cycle. Dubbed “CNN Primetime,” the specials, which took on various formats, never performed well in the ratings and the idea was eventually abandoned.

Going forward, Thompson will be faced with continuing the foundation that’s been laid for CNN Max as well as possible adjustments to the schedule as the previously-announced changes roll out.