It was only less than a week ago when everyone heard of the shocking exit of CNN chief and WarnerMedia News and Sports chairman Jeff Zucker. There are tons of questions and concerns circling around, especially regarding the upcoming launch of CNN+ and its involvement with the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger.
According to a knowledgeable source, Discovery CEO David Zaslav was just in the dark about Zucker’s resignation as everyone else. In fact, he found out only hours before it happened. CNBC, observed that “Zucker’s departure could give Zaslav more freedom to decide how to proceed with CNN’s live programming and CNN+ without having to butt heads with a friend.”
Losing Zucker may in fact help Zaslav better align CNN with his broader streaming strategy. Big changes are afoot and if the deal takes effect in the spring, Discovery is likely to appoint a new leader of CNN Worldwide.
On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” interview with Zaslav, he said that putting Discovery together with WarnerMedia and possibly CNN is “really formidable and exciting.”
He said, “Warner Brothers television over almost 400 shows that are the biggest producers makers of content in the world. Warner Brothers motion picture. And CNN. You know, the greatest news gathering organization and news the only really powerful global news force in the world… I think it’s really the right time, because more and more when consumers are thinking about where they want to go they don’t want to go to eight or nine different places and they’re not going to pay for multiple, multiple different options and we have when this company comes together this is something that John and I spent a lot of time talking about, over the broadest menu of entertainment, from kids to adults to teenagers, the greatest movie library TV library, and we have more local content than anybody in the world…”
All in all, the Q1 2022 launch for CNN+ is riddled with uncertainty, as Zucker was the driving force behind the new streaming service. With a drop in CNN's ratings by 90% of 25-54 year olds over the past year, it’s hard to tell if the streaming service is something that people want to pay for.
While it is likely CNN+ will still launch as a standalone service in March at $5.99 a month, it is unclear what will happen once it merges with Discovery by the middle of this year. It certainly sounds like Zaslav goal is to fold all three services into one, instead of keeping them separate. So while CNN+ may launch, it may not be around for very long.