CNN is racing against the clock as it tries to secure distribution deals for its new streaming service, CNN+, ahead of its launch on March 29. In a interview with Bloomberg TV’s Emily Chang, CNN Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer, and head of CNN+ Andrew Morse mentions that the service is hoping to launch on the streaming platforms of Apple and Roku, but the company is “coming down to the wire to get on as many platforms we can.” While CNN has also previously announced a deal with Comcast, there was a very large distributor missing from the conversation— Amazon.
WarnerMedia knows all too well how vital securing full distribution is for a new streaming service. Being that HBO Max debuted without distribution on Amazon, the company experienced a slow in customer growth straight out of the gate. Not exactly ideal.
Morse also mentions this is CNN’s most ambitious (and expensive) new initiative since the network’s launch, as it attempts to broaden its audience online following a decline in the number of people paying for linear TV. Despite this, he feels “confident we’ll grow a healthy subscriber base very quickly,” and the company has “ambitious but achievable” subscriber targets. While CNN expects the streaming service to be profitable within a few years, analysts doubt that many people will pay for the service since there are so many FAST channels and other free options to watch news coverage. For instance, CBS and NBC both offer free news streaming services, as well as access to all the news that’s on YouTube.
Overall news viewership has plummeted since the end of the Trump administration. On most days, CNN's audience tops out around 1 million viewers.
The company is pulling out all the stops to get viewers to even consider hitting the “Subscribe” button. For instance, for up to four weeks after the launch, customers will be able to receive 50% off of the monthly plan for as long as their account remains active.
Additionally, CNN+ also has plans to eventually roll out an ad-supported version of the service, as well as to bundle the streamer with its corporate sister platform HBO Max, according to the LA Times.
There are many factors that loom over the launch of CNN+; Zucker’s departure and the merger of WarnerMedia-Discovery has the entire CNN staff sweating bullets. Morse expects Discovery will want to make some changes but all he cares about right now is getting the launch just right.
CNN+ was a subscription streaming service that included 12 hours of live news and on-demand access to shows like “Parental Guidance with Anderson Cooper,” “5 Things with Kate Bolduan,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” and “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” The service features journalists like Chris Wallace and Audie Cornish.