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CNN to cut 100 jobs as it prepares to launch digital subscription products

CNN chief Mark Thompson.
(Ben Gabbe / Getty Images)
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CNN is cutting 100 positions across the company as it accelerates its push into digital subscription products that reach beyond its shrinking cable TV audience.

In a lengthy Wednesday memo, CNN Chairman and Chief Executive Mark Thompson told employees that the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned unit “will lean more heavily into digital products.” He said CNN.com will offer its first digital subscription product by the end of this year, but did not specify what the new offering will carry.

Thompson, who joined CNN from the New York Times Co. last year, has focused on how to strengthen the news operation’s business while its chief source of revenue, pay TV subscribers, is in steady decline. The network’s prime time TV ratings are down dramatically from the highs reached in 2020.

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CNN already reaches a massive audience through its digital platforms, but all of the content is currently free and does not generate the kind of ad rates attainable through traditional TV. Watching the CNN channel live still requires a pay TV subscription, which many consumers are dropping through cord-cutting as they depend on streaming for video content.

“CNN is one of the world’s most successful multi-platform global news brands,” Thompson wrote. “But we can’t thrive as a company unless we find new sources of revenue to offset the structural pressures on legacy income streams.”

The division that has brought CNN ratings and an Oscar is bouncing back from slashed budgets. Its latest offering is a co-production with the BBC.

April 6, 2024

Thompson added that the company’s investment in digital will be aimed at developing new products that consumers will be willing to pay for.

“We are currently assessing existing areas of digital strength like consumer advice with CNN Underscored and health, as well as other less established categories to decide which areas to develop further,” Thompson wrote.

The 100 eliminated employees will be informed of their status on Wednesday. CNN has 3,500 employees worldwide.

CNN had a major round of layoffs in 2022 after parent company Warner Bros. Discovery took ownership. The broader news business has been battered by cost cutting in recent years as organizations struggle to generate sustainable income, with audiences getting more of their information online.

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Thompson’s memo also noted that Charlie Moore, executive producer for Anderson Cooper’s program, will oversee all of prime time on the channel — and most likely be in charge of a revamp. The newer additions to prime time — Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip and Laura Coates — have failed to catch on with viewers who are locked into commentary-driven shows on MSNBC and Fox News.

CNN did recently score a coup by having the first 2024 presidential debate between President Biden and former President Trump on June 27. The event was watched by 51 million viewers, who witnessed a disastrous performance by Biden, who has fended off calls to drop out of the race ever since.

If the Democratic ticket changes, the telecast moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash could go down as the most consequential debate in history.

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