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Behind-the-Scenes Look at CNN+ Before Tuesday’s Launch

Matt Tamanini

Tuesday, March 28 at 7 a.m. ET marks the launch of the latest streaming service as CNN+ will officially be unveiled to the public with the inaugural broadcast of “5 Things with Kate Bolduan.” The 10-ish minute daily show will be the first of seven live, weekday news programs that will be available on the service starting with Tuesday’s launch. There will also be two to three live interviews per day as part of the service’s Interview Club.

While the official launch is not until Tuesday, CNN+ is available now on their website now with Monday versions of their daily programming.

The spinoff of the legacy cable news network is focusing on a different approach than many of its streaming competitors.

“CNN+ is a really unique streaming service that’s built from the ground up for news. And it’s the kind of service that only CNN can build,” CNN’s Chief Technology Officer Robyn Peterson told The Streamable last week. “The one thing I would say is we think the world needs — but we think also consumers want — a news product that’s like this … They don’t want just a Netflix with news content. So that’s why you see us going so far beyond that.”

The live content can be anywhere from a few minutes to a normal full length 30+ minute news show. The team felt that it was important with a streaming product not to be stuck with a 30-60 minute news format.

Viewers will be able to stream all of CNN+’s live content either in progress or on-demand after the broadcast ends, but the service will also have numerous weekly shows launching with the service and then others debuting in the coming months.

CNN+ will also be the home for thousands of hours of CNN documentaries and series and new programming. Once current streaming agreements with other platforms — including HBO Max and Netflix — expire, all of CNN’s films and original specials will return home to CNN+. This includes all of the content that the late Anthony Bourdain created for the network, including “Parts Unknown.”

Also available at launch will be new docs including “The Land of the Giants: Titans of Tech” and “The Murdochs: Empire of Influence.” Other programming, including “Eva Longoria: Searching for Mexico” and “The Untitled Alison Roman Project (w/t)”, is currently in production and will be available later this year.

Live Content

Unlike the linear CNN, the new streaming platform will not feature an ongoing, live broadcast wheel. Instead, viewers will be able to select the specific broadcasts that they are most interested in while also being able to complement their experience with VOD content.

“We want to bring this product to market, rather than another news wheel,” Peterson said, “because we have that with CNN and linear. [We want to] bring you something that’s different and complementary, but unique and exclusive.”

As CNN+ is considered a complement to the cable network, subscribers to the streamer will not automatically be able to watch live streams of cable broadcasts. Due to contractual obligations with cable distributors, that content will only be available to users with TV Everywhere credentials.

Cable subscribers can stream CNN, CNN International, and HLN from the service by authenticating their cable subscription, but otherwise, the networks will only be available via a 10-minute preview. However, the launch of the streaming platform will not change anything for cable subscribers.

“I think it’s important to note that if you’re a pay-TV subscriber prior to launch, the content that you have access to is the same content that you’ll have access to post-launch,” Peterson said.

According to Emily Kuhn, CNN Worldwide’s Senior Director of Communications, unlike many other new streaming services, CNN+ is being built into the existing CNN web, mobile, and TV apps. So subscribers who are already using the various CNN apps across devices to stream or read content will not have to add a new app to their phone, tablet, or TV.

Interview Club

In addition to the live and on-demand content that is relatively standard on many streaming services, CNN+ is launching a unique platform inside the service called Interview Club in which subscribers can submit their own questions to be answered by CNN anchors, analysts, and guests throughout the day.

The Interview Club will feature two to three interviews per day at launch and will feature big names from across CNN and CNN+ as well as expert guests. Once an interview is announced, subscribers can submit questions to a moderation panel that will screen them to make sure that they meet community guidelines before they go live into a feed alongside the interview.

Once published, other users can upvote questions that they want to hear answered and then during the interview, hosts will select questions from those submitted to ask the guests.

And since the interviews don’t need to be viewed in realtime, subscribers can skip to specific questions during the segments if they are only interested in individual answers.

Pricing

At launch, CNN+ will cost $5.99 per month, but the service is offering “The Deal of a Lifetime,” in which, for the first month, subscribers can receive a 50% discount on the cost of the service for as long as their subscription remains active.

That means that if a customer signs up today, they will pay just $2.99 per month as long as the monthly fee remains at $5.99. If the monthly rate someday rises to a theoretical $7.50, that user would then pay just $3.75 per month.

Of course, that is assuming that the subscriber hasn’t moved over to some sort of bundle in the future. Peterson said that while there have not been discussions about specific bundling options, the WarnerMedia (and soon to be Warner Bros. Discovery) news network would be very interested in bundling with corporate sibling HBO Max.

That does not factor in the inevitable merger between HBO Max and discovery+ that Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels discussed earlier this month.

Devices

At launch, CNN+ will be available on Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, and Apple devices (via the App Store on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD).

“We are thrilled to be able to offer CNN+ to customers on each of these platforms on launch day,” said Andrew Morse, CNN EVP, Chief Digital Officer, and Head of CNN+. “Getting this product into the hands of our customers is an important milestone for CNN, and our partners will be critical to the future success of this product.”

Earlier this month, Morse said that they were “coming down to the wire to get on as many platforms as we can.”

While there was no mention of the news streamer being available on other platforms, including Roku, the desktop and mobile experiences are already available via web browser.

Suggestions and Curation

With the wide array of content available on CNN+ when the service launches, Peterson said that platform’s content curation will have a decidedly “human touch” in the early days, but that the content team is currently building out more algorithmic experiences that will be integrated into the user experience over time.

“We need to see what people are interested in,” he said. “And then that really helps provide the data that we need to ingest to build those models to make good personalization. And … that’s how we’ll develop over time into more personalization across [content] blocks.”

One way that users will be able to tailor their own experience in CNN+ is through their watchlists.

CNN+ Senior Project Manager Kari McMinn told The Streamable during a product preview, “We have a watchlist feature that allows users to save any content titles … so they can watch it at a later time.”

Subscribers will be able to keep a running list of their favorite live daily series, scheduled interviews, weekly shows, films, and more.

CNN+

CNN+ is a subscription streaming service that includes 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.

Subscribers in the first four weeks of launch get 50% off the monthly plan for life as long as they remain subscribers.

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