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Remembrance of CNN Past

Mark Thompson
Thompson barely started his new job at the end of 3Q23, and he’s barely been afforded the opportunity to gather an executive team and implement a strategy that will take subsequent quarters (if not more) to kick in. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch
Dylan Byers
March 8, 2024

Around 4 p.m. on Super Tuesday, as CNN was breaking into its prototypical, genre-defining, wall-to-wall coverage of the most important night in this historic-if-predictable 2024 primary season—Wolf Blitzer in Washington, Erin Burnett in New York, correspondents across nearly a dozen states, panelists in hair and makeup, John King readying the Magic Wall, etcetera—network C.E.O. Mark Thompson was at the old Time Warner building, sitting onstage alongside the chief executives of Bumble and IDG at the Blackstone C.E.O. Conference. With an ominous and dark sky behind him, Thompson told a room full of executives that his cable network had stabilized after a very tumultuous couple years, and was strategically tackling challenges and preparing for a promising future—you know, the usual corporate pablum around which an alt asset management firm builds a two-day networking events for their executives and L.P.s.

Alas, the mood back at his network was a tad less optimistic. Of course, Thompson’s arrival some five months ago had been heralded as an inflection point for CNN, following the trauma-inducing ouster of Jeff Zucker, the incautious Zaz-and-Malone takeover, and, of course, the sixteen-month saeculum obscurum of Chris Licht. As a former BBC chief who had successfully executed the New York Times Company’s oft-celebrated digital pivot, Thompson seemed uniquely suited to lead the 24-hour television network into its long-overdue mobile-and-streaming-first iteration.