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AT&T Looks To Overhaul CNN’s Digital Unit

John Stankey, the AT&T executive who heads up WarnerMedia, has plans to overhaul CNN’s digital operation.

According to The Wall Street Journal, sources said that Stankey doesn’t believe that the cable news network’s digital arm is reaching its full potential.

While CNN’s ratings soared during the 2016 presidential election, its audience has slipped since then. The network is now in third place in total prime-time viewership this year, behind Fox News (No. 1) and MSNBC (No. 2).

But instead of boosting TV viewership, Stankey wants to focus on product development at the digital division, including working on CNN’s apps, as well as having articles appear based on a person’s interests so that tens of millions of mobile users will spend around 10 minutes each day engaging with CNN content.

CNN Digital requested more funding this year to work on data science, product development and technology. The company also hired a new chief technology officer, Robyn Peterson, who is experienced with content-recommendation engines. In addition, Stankey believes AT&T’s Xandr division, which focuses on advertising and analytics, can play a role in helping CNN Digital with attracting advertisers by targeting readers with specific characteristics.

While the digital division ended last year with about 120 million monthly unique views, it also was hit with setbacks, including having to shut down Beme, a video-sharing app it bought for $25 million, as well as cutting back its investment in CNN MoneyStream, which offered a curated feed of business stories. Plans for premium subscriptions were also put on hold. As a result, CNN Digital missed its revenue target at the end of 2017, and was hit with a round of layoffs last February as part of a restructuring.

Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, is expected to continue to report to Stankey — at least until his contract runs out at the end of 2020.

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