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Was CNN+’s Rollout Not as Bad as Many Assumed?

Lauren Forristal

CNN+ has only just begun its journey into down the streaming world, yet — despite widespread doom and gloom — they might just be doing okay. And by okay, we mean better than originally thought. A source told Bloomberg that CNN’s streaming service exceed 100,000 subscribers in its first week of operation.

Despite a semi-respectable number, the recently launched service is apparently feeling the pressure, especially after its parent company. WarnerMedia was officially acquired by Discovery on Friday. CNBC reported on Tuesday that less than “10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis two weeks into its existence.” To compare, CNN had 773,000 daily viewers on cable in 2021.

The proposed number of subscribers for CNN+, while not confirmed by the company, is small relative to giants like Netflix and Disney+. We’ll give CNN+ a pass for now, since other streaming services have been around the block for quite some time.

The Streamable has reached out to CNN on the matter and they have declined to comment on the subscriber number.

It is kind of a bummer that the hundreds of millions of dollars that CNN spent to program and market the service didn’t pay off as much as one would hope. However, those that do enjoy the news platform can watch a blend of lifestyle shows and traditional news for only $5.99 a month, a pretty good deal in a world of inflation and increasing subscription prices.

This has been the company’s most ambitious new venture since the founding of the network more than 40 years ago and CNN+, with a launch date of March 29, has only been around for two weeks.

Jeff Zucker prioritized the streaming service during his time as CNN chief, yet had to leave the company earlier this year due to controversy. Chris Licht will take over as the new head of CNN next month so it is still too early to tell if he has similar plans to Zucker. Licht was recruited by David Zaslav, who became CEO of the new Warner Bros. Discovery.

The mega-merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery may have outshined the service for media attention, but the behind-the-scenes logistics may have also factored in. While CNN has invested north of $300 million in the streamer already, as the deal was approaching completion, there was a WarnerMedia-wide hiring freeze and many inside the company wondered why the news streamer’s launch was being rushed for before the acquisition was finalized.

While no one from WBD has said much about CNN+ yet, they do plan on bundling and eventually merging the new company’s other two streaming service HBO Max and discovery+. Former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar has also been open about saying that the plan for CNN+ was always for it to eventually have a home inside HBO Max.

Another factor potentially hurting CNN+’s launch was the fact that the service was late to launch on Roku, the biggest streaming operating system in the United States. Thus, the number of Roku users that subscribed to CNN+ has not been announced. Would this make a noticeable difference? Maybe, and maybe not.

Either way, Zaslav will likely have to be very patient with the service as it figures out how to forge its own path in this ever-evolving streaming landscape. The goal for CNN+ was never to become an immediate major player (although I am sure they would have welcomed that); instead it was to diversify the network’s reach and offerings as the core business of their cable network continues to change with more people abandoning traditional television altogether.

CNN+

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

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