Changes at CNN: New CEO Mark Thompson to Focus on Digital Strategy and Programming
Former CNN Chief Executive Officer Chris Licht had the task of changing the network’s programming and tone to prioritize news over “advocacy” journalism. However, Licht has since been fired, and CNN’s incoming CEO Mark Thompson will now take on a different role.
Thompson, who will begin his role on Oct. 9, has engaged in preliminary discussions with CNN’s leadership about strategic ideas and priorities. However, no decisions have been made regarding CNN’s operations, and Thompson plans to meet with staff and learn more about the business before making any changes.
While Thompson’s exact plans are not yet known, it is clear that he will focus on building digital subscription businesses around CNN.com and creating programming for a younger audience on CNN Max, the network’s live news service on Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming platform, “Max.”
During Licht’s tenure, efforts were made to depoliticize CNN and shift its reputation as a left-leaning network to a more balanced outlet that appeals to both Democrats and Republicans. This involved overhauling CNN’s linear shows, including the launch of a new morning show and revamped primetime lineup.
Challenges Faced by Licht
Licht faced challenges in winning over CNN employees due to his hands-off approach and struggle to relate to talent. Additionally, he had to navigate the mandate to reform CNN’s image and cut costs, which resulted in laying off hundreds of employees as part of a broader company-wide reduction.
Thompson’s Focus on Sustainability
Thompson’s primary focus will be making CNN a sustainable business over the next five years. Changes to CNN’s reputation have already been largely accomplished, according to Warner Bros. Discovery executives.
Thompson’s experience as the former CEO of The New York Times, where he grew the subscription digital business, will be valuable in developing CNN’s digital strategy. While CNN+ was discontinued after a short period, Thompson aims to leverage CNN.com’s 149 million monthly unique visitors to build digital subscription businesses. One idea being considered is offering specific topic-based subscription products alongside free access to CNN.com.
Programming CNN Max
Thompson will also oversee programming for CNN Max, with a focus on attracting a younger audience. CNN’s linear network primarily appeals to older adults who subscribe to traditional pay-TV. Thompson will have the opportunity to invest in CNN Max, with expected improvements in earnings and advertising revenue in the coming years.
One challenge will be finding news programming that resonates with millennials and younger viewers. CNN has also considered strategies to integrate news content with on-demand entertainment on the same platform.
Mark Thompson’s appointment as the new CEO of CNN brings a focus on digital strategy and programming. His experience and strategic discussions with CNN’s leadership will shape the network’s future as it aims to attract a broader audience and build sustainable digital subscription businesses.