CNN’s New CEO Mark Thompson Lays Out Digital Future: Network Has Been ‘Slow to Respond to the Challenge’

“We need to recapture some of the swagger and innovation of the early CNN,” the newly minted CEO said in an internal memo

New CNN boss Mark Thompson wearing a black jacket and pink shirt, speaking onstage at a conference.
CNN CEO Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

CNN CEO Mark Thompson is focused on the network’s future in a new organizational structure that will include all-platform newsgathering teams, new subscription models and cost-cutting for the TV production side. 

In an internal staff memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter titled “CNN’s Future,” Thompson laid out plans to structure the network “around the future, not the past.” 

“We need to recapture some of the swagger and innovation of the early CNN,” Thompson said in the Wednesday memo. “It’s time for a new revolution.”

Thomson acknowledged that CNN is undergoing a lot of change with “no doubt more in the coming months.” 

“Change is essential if we’re to secure this great news company’s future. It brings uncertainty – that I’m afraid is inevitable – but in my experience, it’s also often rich in personal and shared opportunity,” the CNN CEO continued. 

“Let’s build with confidence. Let’s fulfill our mission. Let’s learn some new tricks. Let’s look after each other. Let’s have some fun,” Thomson added. 

The CNN CEO reiterated his commitment to CNN’s digital products, saying that the network has been “slow to respond to the challenge,” of declining linear TV audiences. 

“The CNN of today is no longer that buccaneering outsider but a tenured incumbent,” Thompson wrote. “You still see our strength when big stories break. We still sport brilliant on-air, digital and producing talent and have one of the world’s most visited news websites. But, despite all these strengths, there’s currently too little innovation and risk-taking.”

The CNN CEO referred to the linear network as “one of the jewels in our crown and I believe that linear TV will play a central and vital role in CNN’s success as far out as the eye can see.”

However, Thompson noted that cost-cutting for the TV production side of the network is possible going forward. 

“Expect to see us also looking hard at how best to put our TV production machine on a sustainable footing without weakening either the calibre of our journalism or the distinctiveness of our output,” the CEO wrote in the memo. 

Thompson also mentioned a future with potential new content and product offerings, including a possible subscription model. 

Additionally, on Wednesday, CNN announced that Alex MacCallum would be returning to the network as executive vice president of digital products and services, likely a key player in the execution of Thompson’s goals. 

Just prior to CNN’s announcement of MacCallum’s hiring, The Wall Street Journal published an interview with CNN’s new CEO Mark Thompson, who said he plans to shake up the network’s operations and potentially explore subscription models. 

“I’m not even sure that subscription is the right pathway for CNN,” Thompson said in the interview. “But I do think we need to start experimenting and exploring in the broader sense direct-to-consumer relationships and potentially direct-to-consumer paying relationships.”

Thompson also announced executive shuffling with Virginia Moseley becoming CNN’s first executive editor, with Mike McCarthy serving as managing editor. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.