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August 30, 2023

Former BBC and NYT boss Mark Thompson named CEO and chair of CNN

Thompson said he spent years watching CNN "with a mixture of admiration and envy".

By Bron Maher

Mark Thompson, the former BBC director-general and chief executive of The New York Times, has been named the next chairman and CEO of CNN.

Thompson succeeds Chris Licht, whose one-year tenure leading the cable news broadcaster was marked by an attempt to pull it away from what he saw as Trump-era partisanship.

David Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), said he was confident that Thompson “is exactly the leader we need to take the helm of CNN at this pivotal time”.

[Read more: Mark Thompson interview, 2021 – How New York Times defied ‘scepticism’ to build digital subscriptions powerhouse]

“I’ve long admired Mark’s transformative leadership and his ability to inspire organisations to raise their own ambitions and sense of what’s possible… and achieve it,” Zaslav continued. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with him over the last few weeks and couldn’t be more excited for all that’s in store.”

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Thompson will begin in his new role on 9 October. He is presently chairman of genealogy business Ancestry.

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Thompson said: “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.

“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.”

Who is new CNN boss Mark Thompson?

Thompson served as director-general of the BBC between 2004 and 2012, a period that spanned the launch of its iPlayer streaming service.

He moved to the NYT immediately afterward, and is often credited with stewarding the Gray Lady back into good financial health – helped by the so-called Trump bump and the newspaper’s earlier decision, in 2011, to implement a paywall.

Both WBD's press release and an internal memo sent by Zaslav to CNN staff mention iPlayer, describing it as "the world's first streaming service from a major broadcaster". Last week CNN announced its own streaming efforts, saying it would incorporate live news into the WBD Max platform. That plan comes a little over a year, however, after the closure of CNN+ - a streaming service set up by CNN a month before its merger into WBD and which was shuttered immediately after the merger finished.

Thompson inherits CNN at a fraught moment strategically. Licht's messy departure from the network itself came after long-serving chief executive Jeff Zucker contoversially resigned in 2022 over a failure to disclose that he had been continuing a romantic relationship with CNN's chief marketing officer, Allison Gollust.

The company has since suffered close competition from liberal news network MSNBC while it simultaneously tries to prepare for a post-cable future.

[Read more: Mark Thompson interview, 2020 - Why The New York Times has not made any Covid-19 cuts… and how crisis may save the BBC]

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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