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Mark Thompson to CNN: Former BBC and New York Times chief takes over at US news broadcaster


Mark Thompson, the former boss of the BBC and New York Times, has been appointed the new chief executive of CNN.

Mr Thompson, 66, succeeds Chris Licht, who stepped down in June after a turbulent year at the helm of the US news channel.

David Zaslav, CEO of CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros Discovery, said in a statement on Wednesday: “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organisations.”

Warner will task Mr Thompson, the new chair and CEO of CNN Worldwide, with reviving a network battling falling ratings and profits.

In his eight-year spell as the CEO of the New York Times, Mr Thompson oversaw a near five-fold growth in its share price by focusing on digital subscriptions.

When he was appointed to lead The Times in 2012, the newspaper had fewer than one million digital-only subscribers.

By the time he left in 2020, it had more than five million digital subscriptions, CNN said on its website.

He also led the BBC as director-general between 2004 and 2012.

A big focus area for Mr Thompson in his new job is likely to be the recently announced round-the-clock news service called CNN Max, which will be available on Warner Bros Discovery’s streaming platform.

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CNN Max is looking to make the most of the immediacy of breaking news and analysis, separating it from CNN+, which featured lifestyle programmes.

The news network’s ratings have been sagging and its profits fell under $1bn (£787,000) in 2022. That figure is expected to be modestly higher this year than last, at $938.6m (£740m), according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

During June, CNN’s audience lagged behind Fox News and MSNBC in prime time and across the total day, according to data from Nielsen.

Mr Licht’s short period in charge included a divisive town hall forum with former US President Donald Trump and the shutdown of the CNN+ streaming service just weeks after its launch.

Mr Licht was formerly a TV producer who had worked on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

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