The new venture, called CNN +, was officially announced Monday morning. It will coexist with existing CNN television networks and offer eight to twelve hours of live programming per day.
Jeff Zucker, president of WarnerMedia News and Sports and president of CNN Worldwide, described CNN + as the evolution of video news and the start of a new era for the company.
“CNN invented cable news in 1980, defined online news in 1995, and is now taking a major step in expanding what news can be by launching a direct-to-consumer streaming subscription service in 2022” Zucker said in a statement.
The executive in charge of CNN +, Chief Digital Officer Andrew Morse, said “this is the most significant launch for CNN since Ted Turner launched the network in June 1980”.
This is because it is an urgent offer to keep up with changing consumer demands.
As tens of millions of people access CNN through a subscription to a cable or satellite TV package, all cable – and broadcast – networks have been affected due to cord cuts in recent years. years, and the popularity of products like Netflix has shown. the growing appeal of streaming alternatives.
CNN cannot simply sell its current over-the-air programming via streaming because of lucrative, long-term deals with the cable companies. The company generates more than $ 1 billion in profits annually, largely through cable subscription fees and advertising.
CNN is therefore in the process of building a parallel track, right next to its existing TV track, to serve both existing cable subscribers who want additional programming and customers who have no cable at all.
Zucker put it this way in his statement: “In addition to a television offering that has never been stronger, that remains at the heart of what we do today, we will provide consumers with a product of streaming that increases the reach and reach of the CNN brand. in a way that no one else does. Nothing like that exists. “
The new streaming service will launch in the first quarter of 2022. Morse said in an interview that it will consist of three streams: eight to twelve hours of live programming per day; original series, some never before seen for CNN + and others from the network’s archives; and something Morse called an “interactive community”.
He said the latter would give subscribers the opportunity “to engage directly with our talents and experts on the issues that matter most to them.”
The pricing for CNN + will be announced later, as will the specific programs and the live program. The service will be launched first in the United States and will be rolled out later in other countries. Producers have piloted possible shows in recent weeks. Morse said the shows would be run by “some of CNN’s most prominent talent, as well as several new faces,” hinting at some planned hires.
Morse also pointed out that daily programming will be differentiated from what CNN is already producing on television.
“This will not be a news service,” he said, citing opportunities for “deeper dives” in topics such as climate change; space and science; and race and identity.
“You’re also going to see things that surprise you,” he added, hinting at the possibility of CNN presenters being presented in new ways.
CNN has approximately 4,000 employees, making it one of the largest news operations in the world. Morse said CNN hires around 450 people for CNN +, from producers and engineers to marketers.
The large number of job openings reflects CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia’s investment in the product in the wake of the HBO Max streaming service launch last year.
“We’re going to do a pretty big swing here, and the company is behind it,” Morse said.
CNN + will enter an environment cluttered with streaming news. The broadcast networks all have free streaming channels that basically act as news wheels, showing a mix of live headlines and recorded stories.
Morse argued that broadcast networks “lack the resources” to launch something as ambitious as CNN +.
Fox News has a three-year-old streaming service called Fox Nation, but it is billed as an “entertainment” product and is widely known for its right-wing opinion broadcasts.
Other rivals in the news space, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have big subscription companies, but they’re text-based, not video-based. CNN + will be “video-driven” at launch, Morse said, although “as we understand how customers consume the service, we can totally think of new types of formats,” including podcasts and long articles.
Examining this landscape, Morse concluded that CNN + will be “very different from anything on the market.”
In the industry-wide subscriber race, one of the billion dollar questions has been: How many people might be willing to pay for media coverage?
Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said earlier this year that The Times saw a market “of at least 100 million people who should pay for English-language journalism.”
When asked about the potential reach of CNN + in the future, Morse said “we think, given the reach of our brand; given our credibility; given our confidence; given that we reach 290 million people on linear and digital platforms around the world, there really is a substantial audience opportunity for us. “