Former New York Times boss Mark Thompson is a leading candidate to replace ousted CNN honcho Chris Licht to run the struggling cable news outfit, according to a report.
Thompson, 66, who was CEO of the Times from 2012 until 2020, is among a small group being considered for the difficult role of turning around CNN, news site Semafor reported Wednesday.
A media exec told The Post that Thompson would face a major challenge revamping CNN, and seemed skeptical that he would be successful.
“I don’t see how you can run a news operation like that,” the source said, noting that Thompson, like Licht, would face an uphill climb as he battles steep ratings declines and a limited budget to bring in new talent.
The executive said that since Thompson exited The Times, he has largely stayed out of the spotlight but has made some appearances at media-centric events.
Thompson’s resume also includes stints as director-general at the BBC as well as CEO of the UK-based Channel 4. He currently serves as chairman of the board of Ancestry, the Utah-based genealogy company.
The Post has sought comment from Thompson.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery declined comment.
The news channel, which is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, has been run by a trio of veterans since Licht’s ouster in June.
A CNN insider said Thompson’s track record of transforming the New York Times from a print-centric business to a digital business is “exactly what this place needs.”
“It’s not a programming job,” the source added, an apparent swipe at Licht, who held stints as executive producer of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” as well as “CBS This Morning,” among other things.
“We need someone to come in and rethink how we approach things,” the source added, explaining that CNN’s digital revenue needs to be a priority in the face of its shrinking linear TV business.
Thompson is well aware of television’s hurdles.
In 2021, he opined that the TV news business in the US was in “dead trouble” due to a shrinkage of its audience — particularly among those under the age of 60.
“News feels like a particularly old-fashioned style of broadcasting aimed entirely at older audiences,” Thompson said.
“I live in the US and [TV news] seems completely unchanged since the 1980s. I think it is in dead trouble.”
Thompson, a former television producer at flagship UK-based news programs such as “Newsnight” and “Panorama,” is credited with helping the Times reverse its fortunes and boost its subscriber base during his tenure.
If Thompson does indeed get the top job at CNN, he will have his work cut out for him.
The network, which is currently being run on an interim basis by a troika of executives that includes talent boss Amy Entelis, editorial head Virginia Moseley and programming chief Eric Sherling, is currently lagging well behind its competitors Fox News and MSNBC in the cable news ratings race.
Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav hired Licht to replace Jeff Zucker, who was pushed out last year after it was learned that he had been carrying on a years-long relationship with his top marketing officer, Allison Gollust.
Licht was given a mandate to boost network ratings by moving CNN closer to the political center after the tumultuous Trump presidency.
But his 14-month reign was marked by inner turmoil, poor ratings, sagging morale, and on-air blowups involving top talent such as Don Lemon.
In June, Licht was let go just days after a devastating profile in The Atlantic magazine portrayed him as a thin-skinned, insecure leader who lost the confidence of the network’s top stars — many of whom remained loyal to his predecessor, Zucker.