Warner Bros. Discovery Reboots Hunt for CNN Chief

Warner Bros. Discovery is back in the hunt for a new executive to oversee CNN.

Mark Thompson, the former CEO of New York Times Co. and a former Director-General of the BBC is “in the mix” of potential candidates being considered by the media conglomerate, according to two people familiar with the matter. Warner Bros. Discovery is putting itself through a “thorough process,” according to one of these people, to find a new leader for its popular news outlet as it grapples with linear ratings shortfalls and attempts to make its way through the world of streaming.

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CNN referred inquiries on the matter to Warner Bros. Discovery, which declined to make executives available for comment. Semafor previously reported that Thompson was on the company’s list of CNN candidates.

It it not clear if Thompson and the company are in active discussions about the role, or if he is simply one of a group of candidates whose names have surfaced in early considerations. During his tenure at New York Times Co., Thompson was instrumental in steering the company toward digital products — and new subscriptions that could be monetized as advertisers trimmed the ad budgets they typically allocate for print promotions.

The question of leadership at CNN has been a thorny one for its corporate parent. Warner Bros. Discovery installed Chris Licht, a TV producer who had developed successful shows such as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and helped steer CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” in 2022, only to find the staff rejected much of his efforts. Licht — with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav clearly egging him on — cut hundreds of positions, scuttled a nascent streaming service called CNN+ and made questionable programming moves such as placing the provocative Don Lemon on the network’s early-morning program. Licht was ousted in June.

The news outlet has entered in to a new, calmer era, with a transitional team of four placed at the helm. In his place: Amy Entelis, a longtime CNN executive who worked with Zucker and helps manage talent relations; Virginia Moseley, recently named to oversee editorial operations; and Eric Sherling, recently appointed head of U.S. programming. David Leavy, a longtime Zaslav lieutenant who had been named chief operating officer at CNN last week, is overseeing business activities.

During their time, the quarter has overhauled CNN’s schedule, unveiling new programs featuring younger staffers such as Abby Philip and Manu Raju. Veterans Chris Wallace and Christiane Amanpour are getting weekend programs. They are also trying to boost CNN’s fortunes in streaming, where it has fallen behind rivals like NBC News and Fox News Channel. A new CNN-based streaming service for Warner’s Max outlet is slated to be unveiled Thursday.

The revelation of a new search in place for a CNN leader may surprise some close observers of the company, many of whom were under the impression that Warner was going to let CNN make its way into coverage of the 2024 election under its current structure. Entelis, a veteran who helped build a documentary business for CNN before the parent company cut its ambitions, has been said to be a favorite for the top role among staffers.

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