CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton announced Friday he will step down at the end of the calendar year.
“For some time, I’ve been talking with Phil Kent about wanting to make a change, and he supports my decision,” Walton said in a note to CNN staff.
Too bad Kent, chairman and CEO of CNN’s parent company, Turner Broadcasting, didn’t support the decision sooner. CNN just finished its lowest rated second quarter in more than two decades, with a primetime average audience of 446,000 viewers — down 35 percent compared to the second quarter of 2011.
For comparison sake, MSNBC averaged just shy of 690,000 viewers — a 13 percent decline. And Fox News Channel averaged a healthy 1.79 million viewers, though even that’s down 1 percent, year to year.
Among the 25-54 year old viewers who are the currency of news programming, CNN in primetime plunged 41 percent in the second quarter, compared to same quarter last year.
MSNBC dropped a much smaller 17 percent, and FNC 14 percent.
Notice the across the board primetime declines, in an election cycle.
“CNN needs new thinking,” Walton, who has had this role since 2003, said in his note to staffers, stating the obvious.
“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,” he added.
This being an election year and all, Walton said in his memo that Kent had requested he work out the year and “be available after that if needed, which I’ve agreed to do.”
“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,” Walton, who has been a part of CNN since one year after its launch, said in his memo.