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