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CNN May Develop Standalone Streaming Service

Ben Bowman

Is CNN prepared to branch out from traditional linear television? If you read the tea leaves in an interview with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, it seems like that could be in the works.

Other than sports, news is perhaps the biggest headaches for cord-cutters. People who only want to watch channels like CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, are stuck buying massive packages with other channels they might not want. Right now, your least expensive option is Sling TV. Sling also doesn’t offer ABC or CBS affiliates, so you’d have to find another option like Locast to watch local news.

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In an interview with the Recode Media podcast, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar ducked a pointed question about CNN without denying a possible direct-to-consumer news option.

“CNN is two things,” Kilar said. “The first and most important thing is that CNN is this amazing team, that is really, really good at what they do. They’re incredible journalists. And they’re able to provide context to the world we live in, and to kind of shine a light on truth. And they do that day in and day out. The second thing that CNN does is today, they manifest that journalism through a linear channel called CNN. I would argue that there’s an opportunity to do more than just those two things. I would argue that there’s an opportunity to take that franchise, that is the incredible team and talented team at CNN, and have them manifest their journalism additionally, through direct-to-consumer environments.”

Kilar continues, “It’s absolutely possible for CNN to be able to both have a linear channel, and do that incredibly well, and be able to invent and serve customers in other ways over the internet. “

Host Peter Kafka pressed Kilar to divulge more, but Kilar pulled up short of committing to a streaming service.

“Keep in mind that when you talk about a 24-hour linear channel, there’s a certain shelf space, and it’s literally 24 hours of programming,” Kilar said. “And that might sound like a lot of programming. But I would argue that the world, given how many people aren’t in all their diverse interests and all the news that’s going on in this world, I would argue there’s a great big opportunity that is not limited by shelf space, and not limited by 24 hours, in terms of the amount of programming.”

You can hear the full interview here.

Streaming news can be a tricky proposition because of the various video rights involved. The Olympics, for example, offers extremely strict rules about how much video can be shown and where it can be broadcast. Other sports leagues can have those issues as well, which is why a sports story on the free, ad-supported Pluto TV is often accompanied by still photos instead of video.

A full-featured standalone streaming news service could be a huge hit for cord-cutters tired of paying for bulging bundles. The Streamable will alert you if and when a media company takes that leap.