CNN CEO Axes Numerous Employees, Announces Plan to Move Company in a Different Direction

CNN is cutting about 100 jobs as it tries another new direction.

Chief Executive Mark Thompson said the cuts are part of a plan to launch a subscription product and merge the company’s TV news and digital news divisions, according to a memo sent to employees, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

“We recognize its potentially enormous impact on the individuals affected,” Thompson told the Journal in an interview. CNN has about 3,500 employees overall.

The memo did not offer details but said the subscription product would “be significantly built out of,” the report said.

The memo said coming digital subscription products eventually would include news and analysis as well as paid offerings around lifestyle journalism.


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Thompson was CEO at The New York Times when its digital expansion increased subscribers from less than 600,000 to upward of 6 million.

He told the Journal that replicating what was done at the Times is “a logical possibility.”

Thompson arrived at CNN in October promising change and saying the company was “nowhere near ready for the future.”

Variety reported that CNN’s subscriber base is estimated to drop 5.6 percent to 66.3 million this year, according to Kagan, a market research firm. CNN had 70.3 million subscribers at the end of last year.

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“We plan to take the journalistic firepower, user-experience and commercial potential of CNN Digital to the next level with strategic commitment, significant fresh investment, an injection of specialist expertise and plenty of creativity and experimentation,” Thompson’s memo said. “We will develop new digital products with a special focus on digital experiences worth paying for.”

Variety noted that CNN “has yet to develop a sustainable digital-video product.”

The memo talked about “creating a growing stable of ‘news you can use’ offerings anchored by lifestyle and features areas where CNN already has brand permission and is competitively positioned to win.”

“Such products offer multiple opportunities for monetization through sponsorship, advertising and direct-to-consumer subscription,” Thompson wrote.

What he called “existing areas of digital strength” — such as “consumer advice” and health — will be part of the subscription product.


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“Rather than separate tribes of TV and digital, international and domestic, we need to recognize that we are all journalists and storytellers first and foremost,” Thompson wrote. “We plan to provide more opportunities for everyone to learn new skills and new forms of storytelling, and more chances to move from one part of CNN to another.”

He also said the network needed to “reclaim the ‘pioneering spirit’” that billionaire Ted Turner invoked when he launched CNN in 1980.

Although CNN’s June ratings were helped by the prime-time presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, one May week showed how far the network had fallen, according to the New York Post.

During the week of May 13-19, CNN drew an average of 83,000 viewers ages 25 to 54 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., making that its lowest-rated week since 1991, Nielsen figures showed.

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