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David Zaslav Says Mark Thompson Will Bring “Transformational Leadership” to CNN as His Hire Becomes Official

David Zaslav Says Mark Thompson Will Bring “Transformational Leadership” to CNN as His Hire Becomes Official

It’s officially official: Mark Thompson will be the new leader of CNN.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav formally announced Thompson’s hiring Wednesday, naming him chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, beginning Oct. 9. Thompson will oversee CNN’s business, strategy and operations, and will also “act as editor-in-chief, ultimately responsible for all CNN content,” per the company.

“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,” said David Zaslav, WBD’s CEO. “Mark is a true innovator who has transformed for the digital age two of the world’s most respected news organizations. His strategic vision, track record in transformational leadership and sheer passion for news make him a formidable force for CNN and journalism at this pivotal time.”

“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,” adds Thompson. “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.”

Thompson, the former CEO of The New York Times Company and director general of the BBC, will take over the cable news channel at a difficult moment, a few months after the firing of Chris Licht, who was ousted in June after a tumultuous year at the helm of the company, and with the cable TV business that had built CNN into a global brand now firmly in decline.

Since Licht’s ouster CNN has been led by an interim team of COO David Leavy; Amy Entelis, the longtime head of talent and content development; head of editorial Virginia Moseley; and programming chief Eric Sherling. WBD says they will continue in their current roles under Thompson.

That interim leadership overhauled CNN’s schedule earlier this month, solidifying its primetime lineup and making tweaks elsewhere, and also unveiled a plan to stream CNN content on Max, WBD’s streaming platform.

Thompson, in a note to CNN staff Wednesday morning, suggested that he plans to further evolve CNN’s business.

“As everyone knows, TV journalism is approaching peak disruption,” he wrote. “We face pressure from every direction – structural, political, cultural, you name it. Like many other media organizations, CNN has recently felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of that. There’s no magic wand that I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away. But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity – especially given CNN’s great brand and the strength of its journalism. I’ve spent most of the past twenty years figuring out with colleagues at some of the world’s other great news operations not just how to survive the revolution, but to thrive in it and gain new audiences and revenue streams. I aim to do the same at CNN. It won’t be my plan that wins the day but our plan, the plan we devise and implement together.”

Read Thompson’s note, below.

Dear all,

No doubt you’ve heard the news and read David Zaslav’s message confirming that I’m to be CNN’s next Chairman and CEO. I just wanted to add a few words of my own.

I can’t tell you how pleased and proud I am to be joining you after so many years of watching – and envying – your work from the outside. Over the decades, I’ve bumped into CNN teams on story after story from Washington, DC to Tiananmen Square. Two months ago I spent a day watching CNN’s spell-binding coverage of the Wagner rebellion, and I watched and read our major competitors too. That day confirmed an old truth to me: when it matters most, CNN is the best place to find out what’s happening. You always rise to the occasion.

As everyone knows, TV journalism is approaching peak disruption. We face pressure from every direction – structural, political, cultural, you name it. Like many other media organizations, CNN has recently felt some of the uncertainty and heartache that comes with all of that. There’s no magic wand that I or anyone else can wield to make this disruption go away. But what I can say is that where others see threat, I see opportunity – especially given CNN’s great brand and the strength of its journalism. I’ve spent most of the past twenty years figuring out with colleagues at some of the world’s other great news operations not just how to survive the revolution, but to thrive in it and gain new audiences and revenue streams. I aim to do the same at CNN. It won’t be my plan that wins the day but our plan, the plan we devise and implement together. Which is why, particularly in the early weeks, you’ll find me doing a lot more listening and learning than holding forth.

I want to add my personal thanks to the interim leadership team. Amy, David, Virginia and Eric have done a terrific job steering the ship over the past couple of months and I look forward to working with them.

My first official day in the office is 9 October but I’m planning to pop in a few times before then. So if you see a tall figure with an English accent and a loud laugh, you’ll know who it is.

All the best,

Mark 

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