A person walks past the headquarters of the Cable News Network (CNN) on November 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Brandon Bell | Getty Images
When Chris Licht became the CEO of CNN, he was tasked with changing the network’s programming and tone to prioritize news over “advocacy” journalism. However, he has now been fired, and the incoming CEO Mark Thompson has a different focus.
Thompson, who will start at CNN on October 9, has been discussing strategic ideas and priorities with CNN’s leadership, according to anonymous sources. He has not made any decisions yet and plans to meet with staff and learn about the business before doing so.
However, it is clear that Thompson will concentrate 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 “Max” streaming service.
Licht’s background was in programming, and he focused on depoliticizing CNN during his tenure. However, he struggled to win over employees and was ultimately let go due to his slow decision-making and inability to connect with talent. Licht’s efforts to reform CNN’s image and cut costs may have hindered his ability to be authentic.
Thompson’s main goal will be to make CNN a sustainable business for the next five years. He is not likely to prioritize coverage of Donald Trump as he takes on the role, as the existing CNN executives believe they can handle that issue. Thompson will also be working closely with the current CNN leadership team, who plan to stay at the company.
Thompson’s previous role was CEO of the New York Times, where he grew the subscription digital business significantly. He will now need to develop a clear digital strategy for CNN, potentially building subscription products on specific topics within CNN.com. He may also explore integrating Bleacher Report with CNN.com.
Additionally, Thompson will have the opportunity to develop new shows for CNN Max, focusing on programming for a younger audience. He will also have resources to invest in CNN Max, as the network’s earnings are expected to improve.
Thompson’s challenge will be to create news programming that appeals to millennials and younger viewers. CNN has already started considering ideas to address this, such as alerting Max viewers to breaking news.
In summary, Thompson’s job as CNN’s new CEO will involve building digital subscription businesses, creating programming for a younger audience, and addressing the challenge of appealing to millennials and younger viewers.
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