CNN has officially named Mark Thompson, who used to run The New York Times and the BBC, as its newest president three months after the brief, tumultuous reign of Chris Licht.
“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, chief executive of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, in a statement.
CNN, after Licht was fired in early June following a series of missteps, has been temporarily run by a quartet of CNN executives who recently announced a series of on-air programming shifts and the coming debut of a separate CNN Max channel on the Max streaming service.
“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,” Thompson said in a press release. “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.”
CNN, which has 4,000 employees worldwide including more than 1,000 in Atlanta where the network launched 43 years ago, is being buffeted by a shifting business model. In recent years, tens of millions have dropped cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of streaming services while direct rivals MSNBC and Fox News regularly beat the network in ratings.
On Wednesday, he told staff in an introductory note that “we face pressure from every direction ― structural, political, cultural, you name it... There’s no magic wand that I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away. But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity ― especially given CNN’s great brand and the strength of its journalism.”
Thompson, who officially starts at CNN Oct. 9, ran The New York Times from 2012 to 2020, successfully reshaping its digital presence and building its subscription numbers by 265%. It now has 10 million subscribers from 1.8 million when he took over. He also ran the BBC for eight years prior to the Times.
He has far more experience running a sprawling media organization than Licht, who had run morning and late night talk shows.
Licht’s tenure included moving Don Lemon to mornings, where he made comments perceived as ageist and sexist that led to his firing, and a widely criticized town hall with Donald Trump packed with rowdy fans. A probing Atlantic magazine profile of Licht where he was painted as paranoid and clueless sealed his fate.