Mark Thompson Addresses CNN’s Challenges in Rare Interview: ‘Plenty of Things We Have to Fix’

By Mark Mwachiro 

Profile picture of CNN's Mark Thompson

Since taking the helm as CNN’s chairman and CEO in October 2023, Mark Thompson has largely kept a low profile as he acclimated to the mammoth news organization. Massive changes have been slow to come to the network, although Thompson has announced his executive team, reworked the network’s morning linear lineup and provided a broad overview of the direction CNN needs to take.

Now, in a rare interview given to The Financial Times, Thompson acknowledged the hard work of preparing CNN for the future, saying: “There are plenty of things we have to fix at CNN.”

Chief among the things in need of fixing is finding new forms of revenue as an exodus of cable subscribers continues to hit the linear cable news networks. Thompson suggests that one solution emphasizes digital subscriptions, while also noting that no final decisions have been made on that front. “I think it’s quite likely that we’ll end up there,” he admits, adding that new strategies are in order. “I don’t think any broadcaster has cracked the code on how to be yourself in terms of digital products.”


Thompson is speaking from a vantage point of having steered a media company into digital prosperity, as evidenced by The New York Times’ strong digital and subscription performance during his tenure. With the recent rehiring of Alex MacCallum as the head of CNN’s digital division, Thompson is banking on fostering a similar type of success at the network.

Will all this change come at the expense of CNN’s linear product, which has suffered in the ratings and consistently finishes third behind Fox News and MSNBC in total viewers and the advertiser-coveted demo of Adults 25-54? Thompson firmly pushes back on that notion—”I’m a TV guy, I love it,” he tells the Financial Times—even as he lays out areas of improvement for linear, including financial news, healthcare, climate, sports and entertainment.

Thompson also acknowledges that CNN can not succeed by solely emphasizing its linear product, suggesting that a more holistic approach is needed. “I love going to the control room and watching shows, going out and arguing about what to do,” he notes. “But we have to lean on these other things if we want to have a healthy CNN five or 10 years from now.”