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CNN chief product officer Rohit Agarwal is leaving the company, a spokeswoman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Agarwal informed staff of his departure via email Thursday afternoon. In the note, which a source close to the company shared with THR, he told his team, “it has been a great privilege of mine to have worked beside you, learned from you, grown with you, and evolved with you.”
A product veteran who previously held roles at HSBC, Last.fm and AOL, Agarwal joined CNN nearly five years ago to lead the product and design operations for CNN Digital at a time when newsrooms across the country were investing in building out more robust online businesses.
His departure comes as CNN now faces a tipping point regarding its direct-to-consumer future. AT&T and WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar have said that the future of the Warner businesses is in DTC, and CNN is no exception. Kilar, in a statement about CNN chief Jeff Zucker’s decision to stay with the network through 2021, said, “I believe that 2021 is going to go down as a milestone year in CNN’s 40 year history given all that is planned,” hinting that the venerable cable news channel had significant aspirations.
And former CNN U.S. president Jon Klein told THR in January that “[CNN must] develop a direct-to-consumer model. That is jobs one, two and three for them,” adding that “their odds of doing that are really good, because CNN has such a strong brand, and that counts for a ton in a fragmented media environment.”
Whether CNN’s DTC future involves HBO Max or its own product remains to be seen.
In his note to staff, Agarwal hinted at more change to come for the network, offering that “information will cascade in the coming days.” He also wrote, “I am incredibly proud of the teams that we have built, how we are working together, and the significant opportunities that such effort has enabled us to pursue.”
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