Mark Thompson, a former top executive at The New York Times and the BBC, is one of several people in talks to lead CNN, according to three people with knowledge of the recruitment process.
It is unclear how far along the talks are with Mr. Thompson and the other candidates. But the discussions suggest that David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, the network’s parent, is looking for someone outside of the group of executives that has been leading the company since he fired Chris Licht as chairman in June.
Mr. Thompson declined to comment. A representative for Warner Bros. Discovery also declined to comment. Semafor earlier reported CNN’s interest in Mr. Thompson.
Since Mr. Licht’s departure, CNN has been run by four people, three of whom — Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling — are CNN veterans. The fourth, the CNN chief operating officer David Leavy, has been a longtime lieutenant to Mr. Zaslav, and was appointed shortly before Mr. Licht’s dismissal.
The group has tried to shore up staff morale, and has also gone about making several significant programming moves. Those changes include adding a prime-time anchor, retooling a morning show after Don Lemon was fired in April and shifting Kaitlan Collins into the 9 p.m. time slot.
In June, Mr. Zaslav told CNN staff that the chief executive search would take several months. There may be some added urgency now given that the 2024 presidential campaign is about to begin in earnest. Fox News will host the first Republican debate on Wednesday night.
Whoever takes the reins will be in charge of one of the world’s pre-eminent news organizations, yet one that has suffered an unyielding string of crises in recent years. Since 2021, two chairmen have been pushed out, a pair of former prime-time stars were fired, an ambitious and expensive digital project was abruptly scuttled, ratings have nose-dived and profits have plummeted.
CNN’s next leader may also be charge of overseeing a plan to much more forcefully bring CNN out of the fading cable world and into the digital future. Mr. Zaslav suggested as much this month when he was asked by an analyst whether CNN could figure more prominently into Max, Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming service.
During the company’s quarterly earnings call this month, Mr. Zaslav said that Max was fully capable of incorporating live programming, promising investors he would have further updates “soon.” He added, “News and sports are important, they’re differentiators, they’re compelling, and they make these platforms come alive.”
Mr. Thompson is no stranger to television. He began at the BBC in 1979, and moved his way up the ranks as a producer, an executive and eventually to director general. As the former chief executive officer of The Times, he is credited with being one of the leaders who helped lead its financial turnaround.