Athan Stephanopoulos Steps Down as CNN’s Chief Digital Officer

By Mark Mwachiro 

Since he arrived at CNN last year, Mark Thompson, the network’s new leader, has been low-key with his plans and who he wants to be surrounded with on the executive level.

All that is about to change as CNN’s chief digital officer, Athan Stephanopoulos, stepped down on Tuesday. In a memo to CNN staffers, Stephanopolous said, “In order to give him (Thompson) the freest hand possible to structure and shape the organization moving forward, I felt that now was the best time for me to step back from my role and move on to a new chapter.”

Stephanopoulos joined CNN in October 2022 as part of a new infusion of executive talent brought on by former CNN head Chris Licht. He oversaw the digital worldwide business, including editorial, product, technology, business ops, and innovation strategies.

Stephanopoulos joined CNN after more than eight years at NowThis, the popular digital news outlet catering to Gen-Z and millennial consumers. As president, Stephanopoulos oversaw all brand operations – including editorial, revenue, product and technology strategy, audience development, and data insights.

Before NowThis, Stephanopoulos was the Founder and CEO of Cliptamatic, a social video distribution platform acquired by NowThis in 2014.

While at CNN, Stephanopulous’ tenure was relatively quiet with his most notable work being the launch of the CNN Max hub on Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming service Max.

He will remain with the network until the end of the month.

This will be the second C-Suite position Thompson will need to fill as the head of global communications position has remained vacant since Kris Coratti Kelly’s departure in June following Licht’s self-immolating piece in The Atlantic.

Puck’s Dylan Byers was the first to report on Stephanopoulos’ stepping down and now reports that Alex MacCallum is set to return to CNN as its new chief digital officer. MacCallum was previously the network’s head of product and general manager of CNN’s direct-to-consumer business, which became CNN+. She took on the CNN Digital chief role on an interim basis after Andrew Morse’s exit.

Before joining CNN, MacCallum spent eight years at the New York Times, where she served as head of product for Standalone Products, a New York Times portfolio including Cooking, Games, Wirecutter, Audio, and Kids.

She was at the Times when Thompson was in charge of it and so he will be bringing back someone who he is familiar with and already has an understanding of how CNN’s digital division works.