Former NYT chief Mark Thompson named CNN Worldwide CEO

News organization veteran Mark Thompson has been named chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, effective October 9, Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday.

Thompson has over 40 years of experiences in the news business, including as president and CEO of The New York times from 2012 to 2020 where he led creation of the news organization’s digital business and increased paid digital subscriptions tenfold. Prior to that, he was director general (equivalent to CEO and editor-in-chief) of the BBC for eight years. In addition to overseeing the sweeping news business, he spearheaded development of the BBC iPlayer, the first streaming service from a major broadcaster.

Mark Thompson CNN
Mark Thompson, CNN Worldwide chairman and CEO (Warner Bros. Discovery)

In his new role at CNN Thompson will lead strategy, operations and business units, including networks, channels and programming across broadcast, streaming and digital, while overseeing CNN’s approximately 4,000 employees globally.  He will also act as editor-in-chief, responsible for all CNN content. Thompson will report to WBD chief executive David Zaslav.  

"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 Zaslav in a statement. "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."

Former embattled CNN Worldwide CEO Chris Licht stepped down from the position in June, following a short stint that was peppered with controversy after taking up the helm in May 2022. With Thompson’s appointment, the interim CNN leadership team will report to him and continue in their functional roles including: Amy Entelis, EVP, Talent and Content Development; David Leavy, COO; Virginia Moseley, EVP of Editorial, CNN US; and Eric Sherling, EVP of U.S. Programming.

“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," said Thompson in a statement. "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."

The naming of Thompson as new CNN chief comes after last week’s news that WBD is launching CNN Max, a 24-7 live news stream featuring popular anchors and shows, on all tiers of its Max SVOD service at no additional cost. The live news stream is debuting as part of an open beta on September 27.

In a recent column on StreamTV Insider, TVREV analyst and co-founder Alan Wolk applauded the move and pointed to advantages of WBD putting a robust version of CNN on streaming. That includes his view that it’s likley to mostly serve a new group of streaming-only viewers and not cannibalize CNN’s older, existing pay TV base. The analyst also said a strong news offering, alongside premium HBO content and easy-viewing non-fiction programming from Discovery, provides a “compelling point of differentiation” for Max from the likes of Netflix and Disney competitors.

“Kudos too for creating a service that appears to be worthy of Max, with top name anchors and programming aimed at a more sophisticated HBO audience,” wrote Wolk in the August 25 column. “If you play your cards right, this may even help you make up ground against MSNBC.”