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CNN worldwide president Jim Walton announced to his staff that he plans to leave his post at the end of the year. This news comes as the cable news network is experiencing 21-year lows in ratings and losing ground against its competition, MSNBC and Fox News.
In a statement to his staff, Walton said that he will step down on Dec. 31. He added that he discussed his decision with Turner chairman and CEO Phil Kent who supported the decision.
“I've told Phil that I will cooperate with any transition timeline that he and Time Warner want to implement,” Walton wrote. “Phil requested that I work out the year and be available after that if needed, which I've agreed to do.”
Walton wrote that he is “proud” of what CNN had been able to accomplish under his nearly 10-year tenure as president, but admitted, “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.”
In his own statement, Kent praised Walton. He “the leader we all aspire to be,” Kent wrote. “Smart, steady, tough, and fair, business-savvy and respected by his team. His vision has modernized and globalized our legacy news brand, enhanced CNN's journalistic standing, positioned it at the forefront of multi-platform branded news content and challenged the organization to think bigger, reach further and do better. I am honored to work alongside him and proud to call him my friend.”
The news comes during a tough period for CNN. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the network reached a 21-year low in total viewers and viewers in the key 25-54 demo during the last ratings quarter, which ended last month. Primetime shows like Anderson Cooper 360 and Piers Morgan have experienced steep declines from 2011 and daily numbers are at their lowest since 2001.