CNN+, the rookie streaming service launched by the new Warner Bros. Discovery on March 29, will be shutting down April 30, just a month after launch. But the writing was on the wall earlier this week.
The Warner Bros. Discovery flagship streaming service has struggled to grab eyeballs, with roughly 150,000 subscribers since launch. Earlier this week, the media giant suspended all external marketing communications for the streaming platform.
“As we become Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN will be strongest as part of WBD’s streaming strategy which envisions news as an important part of a compelling broader offering along with sports, entertainment, and nonfiction content,” said Chris Licht, Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide, in a statement released to the media. “We have therefore made the decision to cease operations of CNN+ and focus our investment on CNN’s core news-gathering operations and in further building CNN Digital. This is not a decision about quality; we appreciate all of the work, ambition and creativity that went into building CNN+, an organization with terrific talent and compelling programming. But our customers and CNN will be best served with a simpler streaming choice.”
Upon launch, CNN+ slashed the price for early birds from $5.99 for $2.99 in the first month, but there was little on offer for CNN buffs, as the streaming platform doesn’t offer round-the-clock news and live updates the way the legacy channel provided by a regular cable subscription does.
Offerings have included a Don Lemon talk show, a Jake Tapper book club, an Anderson Cooper show on parenting, and “more than 1,000 hours” of CNN series, boasts Warner Bros. Discovery, as well as a lineup of CNN documentary films from “RBG” to “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.”
The exclusive deals Warner Bros. Discovery has with cable providers have seemingly prevented the streaming service from hosting what is traditionally CNN content.
It’s reported that the new CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, was rankled by the decision of Jason Kilar, the recently departed CEO of WarnerMedia back in the days when it was owned by AT&T, to launch CNN+ mere weeks before Discovery was set to take over operations amid the budding merger.
It’s also reported by Variety that incoming CNN CEO Chris Licht is holding a meeting Thursday, as revealed in a memo to staffers.
Licht has already reportedly told Andrew Morse, CNN executive vice president who oversees CNN+, of the decision to shutter the service. Morse will then depart the company.
“We are grateful to Andrew for his significant contributions to CNN Digital and CNN+ over the years,’’ Licht said. “He and his team created a quality slate of rich and compelling content and helped produce and distribute CNN’s journalism around the world on a variety of platforms. We appreciate Andrew and everyone’s hard work and dedication.”
“It has been an honor to work alongside the world’s best journalists these past nine years, and I could not be prouder of what we built together with CNN Digital and CNN+. Our journalism has never been stronger, nor has it reached more people in more places across more platforms than it does today,” said Morse. “I am a great believer that change is critical – for individuals and for organizations. As the company enters an exciting period of change, it is a logical time to make a change for myself. I’ll always be rooting for CNN.”
Alex MacCallum, the Head of Product/General Manager of CNN+, will now take over as CNN Digital. While J.B. Perrette, CEO of Global Streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery reiterated the brand’s commitment to direct-to-consumer.
“Consumers are the center of our strategy,’’ Perrette said. “In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling. We have very exciting opportunities ahead in the streaming space and CNN, one of the world’s premier reputational assets, will play an important role there.’’
There was talk of CNN+ and HBO Max (the media conglomerate’s most successful streaming outing so far) merging as one — but Warner Bros. Discovery also hoped to build out CNN+ at the level of that streaming platform, which launched May 27, 2020, and so far has more than 76 million global subscribers as of March reports.