CNN will discontinue its CNN + streaming service about a month after its launch, indicating a lack of faith from its new owners in the viability of a separate subscription-based news platform.
The decision to abandon CNN +, which began unpleasantly, was made less than two weeks after CNN took over from AT&T Inc. to a newly formed company called Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.,
the result of a merger of entertainment and news assets of the telecommunications giant and Discovery.
Addressing CNN staff during an emotional meeting at City Hall on Thursday, CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht – who has not even officially accepted his role – called the decision to close CNN + so soon after it launched a “uniquely crappy situation”. ”, According to the participant. Mr. Licht and others from Warner Bros. Discovery pointed the finger at AT&T and its former entertainment division WarnerMedia for launching the service ahead of the arrival of new management.
“We need to own what happened, even if it’s not the result of what we did,” Mr Licht said.
The death of CNN + reveals the unique challenges of building a business on streaming news that cannot show a live broadcast of a television network or its high-profile content without violating contractual obligations with pay-TV providers. Instead of offering access to CNN shows such as “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and “Anderson Cooper 360 °,” CNN + featured less news rates such as “Jake Tapper Book Club” and “Parental Guide with Anderson Cooper”.
CNN has also been pushing for its streaming service of renowned talent, including former Fox News presenter Chris Wallace. With the support of former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Killar, the previous CNN regime spent $ 300 million on CNN + development with plans to invest another $ 750 million over the next few years, people familiar with the operation say.
After launching on March 29, CNN + attracted fewer than 100,000 subscribers, said a person familiar with the operation, and its price of $ 5.99 a month was seen as inflated by Discovery executives, who questioned the service’s viability before launch.
Some of the content from CNN + will be moved to other platforms of the parent Warner Bros. Discovery, including CNN, told staff Mr Licht during the meeting. According to him, the streaming service HBO Max is also a potential landing site for some of this content.
In a note to staff earlier Thursday, Mr Licht said the decision to close CNN + on April 30 was difficult but necessary.
“This is the right option for CNN’s long-term success,” Mr. Licht said in a note reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “This allows us to refocus resources on key products that drive our special focus: further improving CNN journalism and its reputation as a world news leader.”
The decision on Thursday was telegraphed last week by David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, which said at a recent town hall meeting, that it would prefer to have all the content of an extensive entertainment and information campaign on one platform rather than run separate services for different channels.
As part of the restructuring, Andrew Morse, the CNN CEO who oversaw CNN +, is leaving the company. Mr Morse could not be reached for comment. Mr Licht said CNN CEO Alex McCallum would oversee CNN’s digital operations. A CNN veteran with previous work in the New York Times and Washington Post, Ms. McCallum was recently the general manager of CNN + and the product manager of CNN Worldwide.
Mr Licht said CNN + employees would receive salaries and pay for the next three months and could also look for potential jobs elsewhere in the company.
The news of the closure of CNN + previously reported Variety.
During the town hall on Thursday J. B. Perret, CEO of Discovery, has been named CEO of Broadcasting and Interactive Operations at Warner Bros. Discovery said the company was unable to dig into CNN + before launching it due to legal restrictions restricting their access to service planning.
“The previous leadership just kept going,” he said. “It makes us worse when we come here.”
An AT&T spokesman could not be reached for comment. Mr Killar did not respond to a request for comment. The former top executive of WarnerMedia said Discovery was well informed about CNN + and did not raise any red flags.
Because of its relationship with pay-TV distributors, CNN was limited in the amount of live news and content it could post on its CNN + platform. According to a person close to the operation, Discovery executives regarded the site as a heavy product, ignoring the latest news. Most of the content was mostly softer, for example, in an interview with Mr. Wallace, where he often spoke with long-time celebrities such as William Shatner and Joan Collins.
Fox News competition has been more successful in broadcasting directly to the consumer. His Fox Nation service has more than a million subscribers, said a person familiar with the operation. But Fox News is also known for its loyal audience, and the service offers both entertainment rates and content from some of the biggest names, including Tucker Carlson. Owner Fox News Fox Corp. and the parent company Wall Street Journal News Corp.
Mr. Wallace was the biggest hire for CNN +, lured away by Fox News. There’s a chance his show could go on CNN, people familiar with the matter said. Some CNN insiders also think Mr Wallace could be a candidate to fill a prime-time hole that remained vacant after Chris Cuoma left last year. Senior Chief of Warner Bros. Discovery said it was unlikely.
Neither Mr. Wallace nor his agent responded to requests for comment.
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