The rollout of the new news streaming service CNN+ has been less than smooth, to say the least. From confusing messaging to an odd mishmash of content (which doesn’t include simulcasts of the networks’ cable channels) to being absent on multiple major platforms, the launch has been underwhelming, despite an ambitious amount of talent joining the platform. To make matters worse, the streamer’s launch was even overshadowed by the merger of its parent company, WarnerMedia, and Discovery to create Warner Bros. Discovery.
According to a CNBC report, “fewer that 10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis two weeks into its existence.” That stands in stark contrast to CNN’s 773,000 daily viewers on cable in 2021, which was a significant decrease from their 2020 total, which was buoyed by the presidential election.
Now, Axios is reporting that due to the disappointing launch, there is likely to be some significant belt-tightening at the new streamer. CNN had initially planned on spending $1 billion on the service over the next four years, with $300 million already invested at launch. However, “hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to be cut from that original investment total.”
With a reduction in the investment budget, the cable news giant — along with outside consulting firm McKinsey — will likely have to reduce the number of subscribers that the service was aiming to sign up in the coming years. They had hoped to bring in approximately 2 million customers within one year and 15-18 million by 2026 and to break even by the end of the fourth year. If the streamer’s budget is cut as significantly as expected, those numbers will have to be dramatically downsized. CNN execs reportedly see the growth opportunities for the platform as being far more overseas than domestic.
However, despite the moribund prognosis, on Monday, CNN+ announced that it was finally available via Roku, the U.S.’s largest smart TV platform, which could significantly increase the brand awareness for the fledgling streamer.
As the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger was made official on Friday, we speculated as to what the future might held for CNN+. Given that the public plan is for HBO Max and discovery+ to be bundled and eventually merged, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the same could happen with CNN+. Now-former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar said in a recent interview that the plan has always been to bring the news streamer into the HBO Max app in one form or another. Whether that will continue to be the case under the company’s new leadership remains. tobe seen.
Complicating matters have been a whole host of changes happening in and around CNN at the time of the launch; not only was the network’s parent company being acquired by Discovery, but the head of CNN Jeff Zucker was forced to resign less than two months before the launch, further complicating matters. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Chris Licht would take over at the cable news giant, but that his term would not start until May 1.
A top CNN executive told Axios that staff members are confused as to why the network didn’t hold the launch until they were on more solid footing post-merger, especially since the official debut date was not announced until just a few weeks before the launch. Axios paraphrases the source writing, “The launch felt rushed in order to stake a claim over the service and the network’s future ahead of the merger.”
Whatever the future holds for CNN+, it is likely not what the executives and creatives behind the service anticipated when plans started to come together. However, with new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav now ultimately responsible for the success of the service, it will be interesting to see how the plans change in an attempt to eventually bring the streamer to as many consumers as possible.
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.
The service lasted less than a month. It debuted on March 29, 2022 and ended on April 28, 2022