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Big Three News Networks Are Finally Charting Their Place In The Streaming Universe

Derek Walborn

The chaos of the previous year’s pandemic combined with a Presidential election that kept Americans — and the world — glued to programming featuring charts of projections, vote counts, and predictions, ended in a tremendous year for cable news channels.

In spite of this, the writing is on the wall and the big three news networks know that they’re going to have to make some changes to keep up with the times.

As more and more viewers find freedom and savings in cutting the cord, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are all pursuing different strategies in efforts to bring their brands to the streaming market.

According to former CNN U.S. president John Klein, “It’s an enormous opportunity for the news brand that gets it right. The beauty of streaming is that you can have near-perfect knowledge of your audience, in a way that cable distribution has never allowed. That is the pot of gold waiting at the end of the streaming rainbow for news networks.”

CNN is the news network that looks to be taking the most familiar path with regard to a streaming offering, currently developing a platform called CNNPlus. The name may be evocative of other media outlets’ services, but the intention of the platform goes beyond simply bringing CNN programming online. CNNPlus looks as though it will complement the network’s mainstream offerings with original content featuring CNN anchors taking on roles outside of their usual spots on the channel. For example, an anchor who usually sits behind a desk for news delivery may host a show in which they conduct interviews or dive deeply into specific subjects or issues.

CNNPlus’ content is merely speculative at this point, but WarnerMedia executive VP direct-to-consumer Andy Forssell promises a unique and engaging experience for fans of the network.

“We don’t think it’s just repurposing [CNN’s linear channel] and putting that online, in some IP-directed format,” he said in a presentation last week. “Some of that content is going to change … What is that going to look like, and what does an internet-native CNN look like online?”

On the other hand, Fox News has, in many ways, led the charge in the streaming marketplace. The network already has a linear streaming channel in the form of Fox News International. However, this service is only available overseas.

In 2018, the network also debuted its premium Fox Nation streaming service, which provided shows featuring Fox News personalities as well as the odd film or cooking show for viewers at $6 a month.

Just this month, Fox Nation began streaming the previous day's primetime content.

Fox News beat CNN to the punch earlier this year, debuting exclusive programming like “Tucker Carlson Originals” and other offerings featuring Fox News hosts on Fox Nation. The network has also provided its audience with occasional live content.

“What we found out is that when we put on live event content like CPAC or exclusive content like the ‘Tucker Carlson Originals’ … the subscription rates go up dramatically,” said Fox COO John Nallen. “And in fact, on the heels of those two pieces of content, we saw subscriptions go up 40 percent in the last two months.”

Nallen is, with good reason, hesitant to put the cable channel in the rearview just yet, especially with the average Fox News viewer being at an age where they may not be interested in the latest, greatest technology.

“The channel … is at the heart of everything,” continued Nallen. “But the ability with that loyal audience to extend the brand into these other areas is what we’re really focused on.”

Fox News will also be launching Fox Weather later this year, extending their reach into the streaming news world with a dedicated platform for local weather.


Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that gives access to up to 15,000 hours of content including original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series.

It will include news, entertainment, sports, late-night, and reality from various NBCU properties including NBC, Bravo, and E!.

Just like other streaming services, Peacock will have their own original series including reboots of Save By The Bell, Punky Brewster, and Battlestar Galactica. They also have shows like Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms), Dr. Death (Alec Baldwin), and a behind-the-scenes docs-series about Saturday Night Live.

The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like the entire Dick Wolf library including Law & Order and Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

The service will also feature blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

NBCUniversal is taking yet another route with regard to content from MSNBC. Their streaming platform, Peacock, is the destination for MSNBC-branded shows and personalities with said programming appearing on a channel within the app called The Choice.

Peacock has not been off to a great start, fully banking on postponed 2020 Olympics content to bolster viewership and botching a much-hyped WWE live event. It makes sense that NBCUniversal would want to continue to beef up the platform’s offerings as opposed to creating yet another venture.

With each network taking a different path, it remains to be seen who will find the most success bringing their content to a streaming audience. Thus far, live sports and news have provided the life raft that cable providers have been clinging to as they see their subscriptions peter out in favor of streaming content.

With sports making big moves entering the streaming market, and news networks following suit, the gravy train that cable providers have been riding for decades looks to be quickly losing steam.

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