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Former BBC and New York Times chief Mark Thompson is in talks for the top job at CNN, as the troubled news network looks to turn around its business after a tumultuous period.
Thompson is among several candidates under consideration, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Warner Bros Discovery, the Hollywood conglomerate that owns CNN, HBO and other media and entertainment businesses, has been searching for a leader for the news channel since ousting Chris Licht in June.
Warner chief executive David Zaslav had handpicked Licht, who was a respected programmer for MSNBC and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. But Licht’s tenure at CNN was riddled with chaos, controversy and staff revolts that culminated in an embarrassing article in The Atlantic magazine. He lasted only 13 months at CNN.
In announcing Licht’s exit on June 7, Zaslav told CNN staff that the search for a permanent leader was “gonna take a while” and “it’s important that things settle down”.
All the big cable news networks have suffered from declining ratings in the past few years since Donald Trump’s exit from the White House. CNN has fallen to a distant third place in the ratings, behind rivals Fox News and MSNBC.
On average only 573,000 people watched CNN on any given evening in the second quarter of this year, down from 1.8mn during the same period in 2020, according to Nielsen figures.
CNN has been in a state of tumult after last year’s abrupt exit of Jeff Zucker, its longtime leader who had helped the network reach record ratings during Trump’s presidency.
After Zucker’s departure, Zaslav has sought to reposition CNN as a less “activist” network than it had been during the Trump years, a strategy that was advocated by John Malone, the cable billionaire and Warner board member.
Thompson was the director-general for the BBC between 2004 and 2012, where he was involved in the development of the iPlayer which introduced on-demand television and radio to its UK audience.
He joined The New York Times as chief executive in 2012, where he steered the newspaper through a digital transformation before stepping down from the publisher in 2020.
CNN has installed a group of executives — Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling — to lead the network while it searches for a permanent leader.
Thompson’s talks with CNN were first reported by Semafor.