Mark Thompson Helped Steady 2 News Outlets. Can He Do the Same at CNN?

Published: 3 weeks ago

Updated: 3 weeks ago

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Mr. Thompson, who oversaw a period of growth at The New York Times and the BBC, will lead the network during a pivotal period.

Mark Thompson has helped 2 stable news organizations.

Mr Thompson, who oversaw a period of growth at The New York Times and the BBC, will lead the network at a crucial time.

Share the full article145One of Mark Thompson's biggest challenges at CNN will be the shift to a more digitally focused future as the cable business declines.


Tejas Sandhu, via the Associated Press, by John Koblin, Benjamin Mullin and Katie RobertsonAugust.

May 30, 2023Update 7:08 p.m.

ETMark Thompson, a former top executive at The New York Times Company and the BBC, was touring the wine country in southern France with his wife when he received an unexpected phone call in mid-June.

David Zaslav, CEO of CNN's parent, Warner Bros.

Discovery, was facing a question on the other side: Would Mr.

Thompson be interested in taking over the leadership of the network?

It had been just days since Mr.

Zaslav fired Chris Licht as CNN's chairman, and a tumultuous 13-month tenure defined by falling ratings and declining staff morale had come to an end.

The meeting sparked a series of face-to-face meetings, phone calls and video conferences that culminated in Thompson returning to his news business after a three-year absence.

CNN announced Wednesday that Thompson will be its next president and editor-in-chief starting Oct. 9. \I am confident that he is the leader we should take over at the helm of CNN at this important time,\ Mr. Zaslav wrote in a note to his colleagues.

CNN, one of the world's leading news organizations, has been grappling with an almost endless series of crises for the past 18 months.

Ratings plummeted, profits plummeted, strategies changed, and two former prime-time stars went door.

Mr was shown.

Thompson, 66, is a former late-morning and late-night producer.

Mr Thompson joins the network with far more experience running an expanding news organisation than Mr Licht, an old late-morning and late-night publication.

Thompson began as an intern at the BBC in 1979 and rose to general manager.

In 2004, it took the top spot in the publisher.

As he would do at CNN, he oversaw both editorial and commercial operations in this role.

He joined The Times Company in 2012 as its CEO and became the top business party job in the organization.

He was among a group of executives who were revitalizing the company financially by greatly expanding the digital subscription business, which was still in its infancy when it began.\\ I just thought we weren't doing well enough,\ he said in an interview with a British publication two years ago.

And we weren't doing it smartly enough.

And we weren't using data correctly.\\ The Times now has about 10 million subscribers, and more than nine million of them are digital-only.

Mr. Thompson left the company in 2020 and was replaced by Meredith Kopit Levien, who expanded his subscription strategy.

Dean Baquet, the former editor-in-chief of The Times, said Thompson was an \excellent recruitment\ for CNN.

They understand change, which is the most important quality for the person they choose to be a leader — someone who understands that things need to change,\ Mr.

Baquet said.

Newspapers were a bit of a learning curve for Mark because he had never been to a newspaper.

But this is his world.

In a note to CNN employees on Wednesday, Mr.

Thompson acknowledged that broadcast journalism is going through \the greatest disruption.\ We face oppression from all sides – structural, political, cultural, you name it,\ he wrote.

Like many other media outlets, CNN has felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of this lately.

There is no magic wand that I or anyone else can use to make this glitch go away.\\ But what I can say is that where others are threatened, I see opportunity, especially given CNN's big brand and the strength of its journalism.\\ Thompson, who was born in the UK and is a big fan of classical music, opera and television, has mostly been out of the media spotlight since leaving The Times.

He works on a novel and has served on a number of boards, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the genealogy company Ancestry.

He also advised the boards of directors of German media giant Axel Springer, which acquired Politico in 2021.

On Wednesday.In June, Axel resigned from his post at Springer, Mr Thompson was knighted for his services to the media during King Charles' 'Birthday Honours' and is officially known in England as Sir Mark Thompson.

Reached out Wednesday, several CNN executives said they believed the network would have broad authority to implement changes.

CNN has begun testing a wall of logs on its website, according to a person with knowledge of the change, which CNN said could be an early step in charging its readers for online access.

Last week, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that it would offer a private CNN channel on the company's streaming service Max in late September.

Unlike its cable and broadcast news rivals, CNN Max hosts at least three flagship shows hosted by Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper on its main network.

It will simulate from Mr Thompson.

In December 2021, CNN's leading prime-time star Chris Cuomo was fired during an ethics investigation.

Two months later, CNN chairman Jeff Zucker was abruptly pushed out of the network.

In April 2022, Zaslav pulled the plug on CN+, an expensive streaming platform.

This year, prime-time host Don Lemon, who became a morning show host, was fired shortly after making age-calling and sexist comments.

In the midst of all the turmoil on the network over the past 20 months, the number of viewers has dropped sharply.

In August, MSNBC extended its weekday prime-time ratings via CNN to its biggest margin since February 2020.

Fox News' leadership is even bigger.

According to estimates from S&P Global Market Intelligence, CNN is on track to earn $832 million this year, down about 6 percent from the previous year, as lower ratings dampened ad revenue.

The company is well on track to miss its profitability target for the year, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential financial information.

Yet CNN continued to earn accolades for its journalism.

This year, the network received more news and documentary Emmy nominations than any other cable news network.

Since Mr. Licht's dismissal, the network has been run by three veterans of CNN — Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling — and David Leavy, a longtime lieutenant to Mr. Zaslav. Warner Bros. Discovery said in a statement that they will continue on the network and report to Mr. Thompson.

Mr. Thompson, who has residences on New York's Upper West Side, western Maine and London, said in an email to CNN staff on Wednesday that he would stop by several times before the October start date (using preferred British style, he described it as Oct. 9).

If you see a tall figure with an English accent and laughing loudly, you know who it is,\ Mr. Thompson wrote.

Lionel Barber, a former editor of the Financial Times who had known Thompson since he was a student in the 1970s, said Thompson had a remarkable ability to withstand the criticism often leveled at those working in senior media jobs.

He has a big personality, he is completely confident in himself, but he does not boast and does not show his knowledge,\ Mr. Barber said. \But if you try to get him into something or you don't agree with him, you'll get back a full volley.\ While Mr.

Barber said Mr. Thompson has held his hand in the media business with several board seats over the past three years, he acknowledged that the CNN chairmanship is the job of an entirely different order. \This is a man who feels he has another big job in him,\ he said.

John Koblin covers the television industry.

He is the co-author of \\It's Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO.

More about John KoblinBenjamin Mublin is a media reporter for The Times covering the major companies behind news and entertainment.

More about Benjamin MullinKatie Robertson is a media reporter.

She previously worked as an editor and reporter at Bloomberg and News Corporation Australia.


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