CNN President resigns: ‘CNN needs new thinking’

posted at 2:01 pm on July 27, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

It’s been a rough year for CNN in the ratings:

After several months of bad ratings news for CNN, official quarterly numbers confirm that the cable news network has hit 21-year lows in both viewers and adults 25-to-54.

The primetime lineup of Anderson Cooper 360 and Piers Morgan, specifically, saw big drops during the prime 8-10 p.m. hours that have averages down to 446,000 total viewers and a mere 129,000 with adults 25-54. Those numbers mark 35 and 41 percent drops from the second quarter in 2011.
Daily ratings stumbled to their lowest in more than a decade (2001), with 319,000 the average total viewers and 129,000 adults 25-54 — 35 and 45 percent drops, respectively.

Now, on the heels of the network’s infamous misreporting of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare, which stood uncorrected for 13 minutes, CNN President Jim Walton will leave the company at the end of the year. (I should add Fox News also jumped the gun on the ruling, but had corrected it much faster.)

His note to staff:

After more than 30 years at this company and nearly 10 years as the leader of this great news organization, I have decided to leave my role at CNN on December 31, 2012.

For some time, I’ve been talking with Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision. I’ve told Phil that I will cooperate with any transition timeline that he and Time Warner want to implement. Phil requested that I work out the year and be available after that if needed, which I’ve agreed to do.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together over these last 10 years – innovative programming, the development of great talent in front of and behind the cameras, expansion in digital and mobile, significant investment and expansion in international coverage, financial success and, most importantly, great and trusted journalism. Thank you for the role you have played in our successes.

CNN needs new thinking. That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through. And I’m ready for a change. I have interests to explore and I want to give myself time to do it.

The next few months will be filled with election news and other important events that will require all of our focus to report the news with the quality and expertise the world expects of CNN. I look forward to working alongside each of you, as I have over the past 30-plus years, to do just that.

Jim

Walton started with the network in 1981, and during his tenure, the number of panelists on election-night coverage increased 4,000 percent. Oh, I kid.

More on Walton’s history with the company, during which he had an impact on shaping the business of 24-hour news from near its very beginning:

Walton, 54, began working at CNN in 1981 shortly after it started. His first job involved ripping paper scripts off wire machines and operating the TelePrompter for news anchors.

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner chairman and CEO, said Walton took over an underperforming company in 2003 and tripled earnings, delivering an annual growth of 15 percent. Roughly half of the company’s earnings come through subscription fees from cable and satellite companies, and they have been growing steadily worldwide.
“Jim has been instrumental in growing the business into the financial powerhouse it has become, while establishing the brand as the worldwide leader for television news,” Bewkes said. “I respect him personally and professionally and support the decision he and Phil Kent have reached.”

Exit question (Allahpundit™): If Walton’s era brought us Prime Time w/ Client 9, what treats will “new thinking” bring us?

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