Mark Thompson’s CNN plans: topic oriented ‘verticals’ beyond politics

‘We don’t believe news is just politics,’ he said.
CNN president Mark Thompson in 2023. AP PHOTO

Credit: AP PH

Credit: AP PH

CNN president Mark Thompson in 2023. AP PHOTO

Mark Thompson, who took over CNN last fall, provided more details about his future plans for the news network to advertisers Wednesday, including plans to build brands around topics beyond politics.

“We don’t believe news is just politics,” Thompson said at the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront presentation to advertisers in New York City. “Business and tech are news. Climate and weather are news. Health, wellness and living longer are news. So expect to see us build new branded verticals in all these areas on TV, on our apps and across our other platforms.”

He was also able to break news Wednesday that CNN will host the first presidential debate in Atlanta between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Thompson has previously talked about integrating the traditional cable network and the digital news operation and improve CNN’s presence on mobile devices. And he told Adweek that CNN is rooted in news more than punditry.

“We see ourselves as a news network first, rather than opinion,” said Thompson, whose background includes running The New York Times and the BBC. “We’re talking about absolutely factual reporting as well as context, depth and discussion.”

Thompson noted how CNN is building its “Five Things” brand via newsletter, podcast and a daily Max streaming show. He hopes to expand the CNN Magic Wall, which John King uses to analyze election results, in an app that will allow users to explore local, state and national election numbers.

He also said he wants to grow CNN’s podcasting unit, which currently includes podcasts from Anderson Cooper and Audie Cornish.

For weekends, CNN recently added repeats of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Saturday night. He plans to pair it with an American version of the long-running British news-oriented show “Have I Got News For You” this fall. The British version blends freewheeling political discussions with a game show format.

CNN last year had cut back on original series but is back to investing in that space again.

On Sunday nights, Thompson said, “sometimes it’ll be eye-opening investigations or long-form documentaries and other times it’ll be feel-good travel and food series.”

CNN announced it will air the documentary “Luther: Never Too Much” about Luther Vandross and the food and travel show “Eva Longoria: Searching for Spain” as well a second season of “United States of Scandal with Jake Tapper.” The network is also working on a series about Twitter (now X) and another on the Pan Am flight 103 bombing in 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland.