Alex MacCallum, CNN’s Interim Digital Chief, Will Leave

Alex MacCallum, CNN's Interim Digital Chief, Will Leave
Morgan Ramberg for Variety

A second senior CNN executive who was deeply involved in the launch of the company’s CNN+ streaming-video hub is set to leave the company.

In a memo to staffers delivered Wednesday, CNN CEO Chris Licht said Alex MacCallum, who had been named interim chief of CNN’s digital operations, was planning to leave the Warner Bros. Discovery unit on June 30. Wendy Brundige, senior vice president of global digital video, will take over the role of interim chief. Robyn Peterson, CNN Digital’s chief technology officer, is also leaving, Licht said.

MacCallum had been general manager of CNN+, which launched just weeks prior to the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia. CNN representatives were not able to respond immediately to a query seeking comment.

“Alex let me know early on that she is passionate about direct-to-consumer work, and while looking for that in her next chapter, she would assume the role on an interim basis. I wish her and Robyn nothing but the best,” Licht said.

MacCallum has been seen as something of a rising star in the media business, which has become increasingly reliant on streaming video for some portion of its revenue. Before joining CNN, she was general manager of video for The New York Times where she helped launch and lead verticals such as NYT Cooking.  In 2014, she was the youngest person appointed to The New York Times masthead.

MacCallum and Peterson represent the latest defections of senior CNN digital staff. Andrew Morse, who was overseeing the launch of CNN+, announced he would leave when CNN”s parent scuttled the site. Meredith Artley, editor in chief of CNN Digital, who had been with the company for more than a decade, announced in late May that she had chosen to depart.

CNN is in the midst of a jarring transition, pivoting from a more spirited and obstreperous, outlet under the aegis of previous leader Jeff Zucker to a more staid, less partisan news vendor under Licht and Warner Bros. Discovery. Licht, a producer who has helped build shows such as “Morning Joe,” “CBS This Morning,” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” is working to scale back some of CNN’s excesses in recent years. Under Zucker and particularly during the Trump administration, CNN anchors were given leeway to express opinions and passions around particular topics and discussions became more combative. Warner Bros. Discovery has articulated an interest in bolstering the network’s news bona fides and journalism.

In recent weeks, Licht has scaled back use of “Breaking News” on-screen banners, and discussed plans to revamp the network’s “New Day” morning show and part of its Sunday schedule.

Licht also indicated CNN wanted to build up its digital staff. “We are focused on increasing engagement with our audiences by investing in technology that allows us to serve all of the incredible work done by our editorial, video, audio, programming, and product teams, and we are hard at work building a plan to do so,” he said in the memo. “To that end, we have just released dozens of jobs to be filled and will be announcing a second wave of business-critical jobs in the coming days.”