Warner Bros. Discovery announced on Wednesday that former New York Times Company CEO and top BBC executive Mark Thompson will become its new CEO, bookending a turbulent summer for the network.
“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,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement. Thompson starts Oct. 9.
Thompson’s hiring comes more than 80 days after Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav fired Chris Licht from the top job following a disastrous profile in The Atlantic in June. The profile depicted his yearlong tenure as a stain on the network—one that had alienated top talent, damaged the network’s reputation, and tanked its ratings.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the chance to join CNN after years of watching it and competing against it with a mixture of admiration and envy,” Thompson said in the statement. “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. 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.”
Licht was replaced in the interim by network veterans Amy Entelis, chief of talent and content development; Virginia Moseley, head of editorial; and Eric Sherling, head of programming—all of whom worked alongside Zaslav lieutenant David Leavy as chief operating officer. That team will continue in their respective roles and report to Thompson.
Thompson led The New York Times Company through the Donald Trump presidency, where he helped boost the company’s digital revenue and oversaw the launches of NYT Cooking, The Daily podcast, and the acquisition of Wirecutter. At the BBC, he presided over the organization’s expansion into online reporting and publishing industries. His name was first floated for the job in a Semafor report last week, and Puck first reported his eventual hiring.
There was speculation that the interim team would manage the network for the foreseeable future, stabilizing the ship through the 2024 election as Zaslav sought a permanent replacement. The Warner boss had solely considered Licht for the top job last year, an unconventional decision for a top executive role—especially when replacing former network CEO Jeff Zucker, who’d run CNN for nearly a decade and left an indelible mark.
Coming into the network on the tail end of a tumultuous summer presents some difficult tasks for Thompson. The network only recently overhauled its lineup, slotting mainstay reporters like Abby Phillip and Laura Coates into primetime and giving TV veterans Chris Wallace and Christiane Amanpour new weekend shows. CNN also only recently moved anchors Kaitlan Collins and Phil Mattingly into their respective primetime and daytime roles, and their time slots have continued to lag behind rivals on MSNBC and Fox News as the network’s profit dropped to under a billion dollars.
The network has also seen a loss of talent via attrition, layoffs, and firings, dampening the morale of staffers. Licht’s tenure saw the dismissal of star personalities such as Don Lemon, Brian Stelter, and John Harwood, while anchors such as Laura Jarrett, Christine Romans, and Ana Cabrera have left for rivals NBC and MSNBC. Most of the departures came months after mass layoffs last December affected various departments at the network.
Thompson will have to manage CNN’s re-introduction into streaming following Warner Bros. Discovery’s plan to host multiple shows from the network’s live feed—along with new programs starring Jim Acosta, Fredricka Whitfield, and Jim Sciutto—on its streaming service Max. Those plans, announced last week, came nearly a year and a half after CNN+ was unceremoniously shut down just a month following its launch.