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CNN+ ‘is to be shut down by Warner Bros Discovery’ after just 150,000 people signed up

Warner Bros Discovery will shut down CNN+ after less than a month because the $300million flop failed to take off.

CNN CEO Chris Licht said it would be pulled at the end of April due to consumers wanting ‘simplicity and an all-in service’ rather than ‘standalone offerings’.

He admitted the decision was ‘incredibly difficult’ but claimed it was ‘the right one for the long term success’ of the company.

CNN+ Andrew Morse will leave the firm but it was not clear what will happen to around 200 reporters and hosts such as Chris Wallace and Eva Longoria.

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Licht said those who worked for CNN ‘will get opportunities to apply for jobs elsewhere inside Warner Bros Discovery’.

The streaming service was panned today as one of the biggest flops in broadcasting history.

The $300million startup was unveiled to huge fanfare – and a glitzy New York City launch party – but drew in a pathetic 150,000 subscribers.

Critics mocked CNN for shutting down the streaming service so quickly, with one asking: ‘Wait… there was a CNN+?’ 

The move is a major embarrassment for the network after it was unveiled to much fanfare three weeks ago, including a glitzy launch party in New York. Pictured: Ken Jautz, Andrew Morse, Kasie Hunt, Chris Wallace, Rex Chapman, Anderson Cooper, Amy Entelis, and Michael Bass at the launch event in New York last month

Around 200 reporters and big name hosts including Chris Wallace and Eva Longoria (pictured) have now been left in the lurch

Around 200 reporters and big name hosts including Chris Wallace and Eva Longoria (pictured) have now been left in the lurch

It is unclear what will happen to huge signings such as Chris Wallace (pictured) - who signed from Fox News - actress Eva Longoria and writer Alison Roman

It is unclear what will happen to huge signings such as Chris Wallace (pictured) – who signed from Fox News – actress Eva Longoria and writer Alison Roman

Rex Chapman and Brian Stelter are pictured at the CNN+ Launch Event at PEAK NYC Hudson Yards last month

Rex Chapman and Brian Stelter are pictured at the CNN+ Launch Event at PEAK NYC Hudson Yards last month

In his memo, Mr Licht said consumers wanted ‘simplicity and an all-in service’ rather than ‘standalone offerings’ rather than what CNN+ offered.

He said some content will wind up on other company networks, and workers will get opportunities to apply for jobs elsewhere inside Warner Bros Discovery.

But he said that the head of CNN+ – Andrew Morse – would be leaving the company.

Mr Licht wrote: ‘While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN.

‘It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that drive our singular focus: further enhancing CNN’s journalism and its reputation as a global news leader.’

A source told Mediaite: ‘I feel so badly for them. [It] had tons of potential but there were certainly some questionable programming decisions.

‘A lot of young talented people gave up good jobs to go there. That’s the really sad part.’

CNN news reported on CNN+ being shut down this afternoon, claiming it was ‘hyped as one of the most signifiant developments in the history of CNN’.

The Twitter post appeared to have misspelled significant, with the full post saying: ‘CNN+, the streaming service that was hyped as one of the most signifiant developments in the history of CNN, will shut down on April 30, just one month after it launched.’

Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav was reportedly against the streaming service from the start.

It comes after reports said bosses slashed its marketing budget and consider rolling the service into HBO Max.

CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, which formed through a merger earlier this month, was said to have cut all external marketing spending.

It is the latest turmoil at the company, after WBD said it would move to cut $3billion in costs and chief financial officer Brad Ferrer was ousted.

Brad Ferrer

David Zaslav

CNN chief financial officer Brad Ferrer (left) has reportedly been ousted in a cost-cutting move as Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav (right) restructures the newly combined company

CNN+ launched on March 29, weeks before the April 8 closing of the $43billion merger between Discovery and CNN parent company WarnerMedia.

The hasty launch was seen by some observers as a move to preserve turf and budgets for the streaming service.

CNN had originally planned to turn it profitable within four years by investing $1billion into its growth.

But the early subscriber numbers were woeful, with just 150,000 paying customers, according to Axios.

Within Discovery, execs were reportedly frustrated the CNN+ launch was not delayed until the merger closed.

WBD, led by CEO Zaslav, is said to be interested in pursuing a streaming strategy centered on HBO Max, rather than multiple niche subscription services.

Under this plan, some CNN+ shows would be incorporated into the tentpole HBO Max service.

Discovery also has its own streamer, Discovery Plus, which will reportedly also be merged into HBO Max.

Execs seem to feel consolidation is the right move in the fractured streaming market, and want to offer a premier combined service rather than multiple niche streamers. 

Discovery executives are also believed to be interested in moving CNN away from opinion programming and back towards its roots as a hard news outlet.

Sources told Axios WBD was considering a plan to fill fired host Chris Cuomo’s former 9pm weekday slot with a live nightly newscast.

But the ‘hard news’ strategy also bode poorly for CNN+, which was focused primarily on personality-driven soft news content.

Confusion over CNN’s streaming strategy was fed by a lack of communication between WarnerMedia and Discovery executives.

The dramatic departure of CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned in February after failing to report a romance with his top lieutenant, also did not help matters.

To date, CNN has reportedly spent about $300million on launching the CNN+ service and made hundreds of hires.

After being announced as Zucker’s successor, Licht sent a memo to his future staff that teased changes the exec plans to implement once in the big seat.

He wrote: ‘I look forward to getting to know all of you and hearing your candid thoughts and feedback.

‘Our viewers demand the truth from us, and I want to learn the truth from you. Together, we will double-down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not.’

In the bulletin, Licht said his one directive as incoming president was to ensure it ‘remains the global leader in news’ as the network’s parent company merged.

Despite reports as few as 10,000 people were using CNN+ on a daily basis, a spokesman said last week the news network was satisfied with it.

They said: ‘We continue to be happy with the launch and its progress after only two weeks.’

CNN+ launched last month with a base price of $5.99 per month, or $59.99 for an annual subscription.

Subscribers who signed up the first four weeks were eligible for half off that monthly price for life, in what CNN called the ‘deal of a lifetime’.

After the promotion ends, the CNN+ monthly base price was set to be the same as rival Fox News’ established streaming service, Fox Nation, which started in 2018.

CNN recruited top talent for CNN+, including Fox News veteran Chris Wallace, actress Eva Longoria, and Alison Roman, a former New York Times food writer.

CNN+ featured live daily news programming, original series, true crime shows and food and travel docuseries.

CNN+ boss Morse claimed last month: ‘Nothing like CNN+ exists. There is no news and non-fiction streaming subscription offering available today, and only CNN can create and deliver a global news product with this kind of value to consumers. 

‘We’re thrilled to offer CNN+’s world class journalism, premium storytelling and Interview Club platform at this attractive price.’


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