If you’ve been noticing a lot of changes at CNN lately, you’re not alone. The titan of cable news has been shaking up its roster and preparing its most ambitious project yet. CNN is preparing to launch CNN+ in 2022. The biggest twist will feature several HBO Max shows departing the platform, moving to CNN+, according to a report from Bloomberg.
The platform is expected to fire up in March 2022, and Bloomberg suggests the subscription price will be $5.99 per month. That’s a match for Fox Nation’s monthly rate, putting the two in direct competition.
This makes CNN the value leader on price, but can it hope to match the content of the big three streaming platforms? The platform is set to offer 8-12 hours of live programming per day. Additionally, CNN actually has a couple of hit series on its hands, featuring food legend Anthony Bourdain as well as Stanley Tucci. “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy”, landed its share of critical acclaim, so CNN+ should have some impressive material on hand. Several of CNN’s previously produced series will make the jump to the platform once it ultimately goes live.
Additionally, reports note that CNN Films will no longer produce content for HBO Max, ostensibly turning that firepower inward to produce its own content.
There are several other points that will prove to be sticking points with this deal. Remember that the deal between Warner and Discovery. While there are some doubts regulators will ultimately let that deal pass muster, its success might also change the path at CNN, even at CNN+. There’s also the inherent question of whether or not anyone actually wants to pay $5.99 a month for news access. A report from Parrot Analytics notes that CNN’s “lifestyle-related” content, like Tucci and Bourdain’s series, have solid demand from viewers. Every major CNN series has at least slightly better than normal demand. The lowest-demand series, “Cuomo Prime Time”, has 1.4 times normal viewer rates. (Cuomo was recently fired by the network.) “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”, meanwhile, has nearly eight times normal viewer rates.
There is a market segment that would be attracted to CNN+. Viewers who are mainly antenna-driven, or only have certain streaming platforms, may be drawn to a ‘round-the-clock news concept. While it’s a safe bet they can come by their news of choice from other platforms—it isn’t as if there’s a shortage of news venues online; you’re on one right now—they can really only get CNN-style news from CNN. There is some demand for an online news source; a Variety study noted that Fox Nation download rates have been steadily on the rise for some time, though the amounts vary from week to week. Fox Nation is comparable, though different in many significant ways, to CNN. That suggests there’s at least some demand.
Perhaps the better explanation here is that CNN simply sees the inevitable and is preparing for it. It’s no secret that broadcast and cable viewership rates have been in decline for some time. Cord cutters are on the rise; the sheer number of new streaming platforms bears that much out. CNN already lost its airport trade back in March when the company shut down its Airport Network. While CNN+ may not do brisk business in its early days, this may be a way of setting up CNN for the day—which seems increasingly likely—that streaming becomes the overwhelming favorite for viewers. While it’s unlikely cable and satellite vanish completely, they’re likely to be shoved to the margins within the next decade or so.
Regardless of the motive, CNN is making a big move. It’s one to watch, certainly, because it may have a hand in determining the future of broadcast.