CNN chief throws in the towel
another viewer has turned off CNN.
Jim Walton, the president of the ratings-starved global news network, resigned yesterday.
During his nearly 10 years atop CNN, Walton oversaw the mass exodus of more than 4 million daily viewers and the tumbling of the network from its lofty no. 1 ratings spot.
“CNN needs new thinking,” Walton, 54, who has spent all of his 30-year media career at the Atlanta-based company, said in a memo to staffers.
The send button on the memo was barely pressed when speculation began on who might succeed him in one of the most sought-after gigs in the TV news business.
Senior insiders at parent Time Warner insist management will take its time with the search — and are looking at a clean slate with no favorites.
“we need to find someone the news community will respect,” one insider noted. “They’d also have to be a magnet for new energy but have journalistic bona fides in the news world.”
Some think that description fits former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker, who ran the “Today,” show at age 26.
Zucker is well-regarded by Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes, but he may not be the first choice of Turner boss Phil Kent who, as the CNN president’s immediate boss might fear a no. 2 with a fatter résumé than his own.
Others say the current re-jiggering at NBC News — recently put under the purview of Patricia Fili-Krushel — could convince some Peacock network brass, like NBC News boss Steve Capus and CNBC chief Mark Hoffman, to throw their hats in the ring.
Time Warner isn’t using a search firm, but it’s unclear yet who will lead the CNN search.
Whomever is chosen will have a lot of eyeballs to reclaim.
Under Walton, CNN’s faltering primetime lineup drew an average audience for the 25-to -54 age group of just 144,000 during the last four weeks — just 32,000 more than lightweight sibling HLN.
Ten years ago, when Walton was hired in a temporary capacity by then-Turner boss Steve Heyer, CNN was pulling in a total audience of 4.4 million in primetime — albeit aided by the Iraq War.
Some wags offered that actor Sam Waterston should get the job. he plays the chief of the flailing fictional news channel in Aaron Sorkin’s “the Newsroom,” on HBO — and on the show he agrees that the channel needs a change in direction.
another person noted that Mark Thompson, former CEO of the BBC, could be an interesting hire.
Interestingly, Thompson has been mentioned in connection with the vacant CEO position at the New York Times co.
There has been extreme frustration at CNN with the lack of leadership in recent years, several insiders told the Post.
In addition, some fear a protracted search could simply leave CNN in limbo at a critical time.
“the problem has been a multi-layered committee approach. I hope they think about someone who isn’t just a failed US news chief somewhere else,” said one insider.