CNN+ streaming service shuts down a month after launch

CNN is shutting down its CNN+ direct-to-consumer streaming service about a month after launch, a remarkably quick reversal that was dictated by the network’s new owners.

In a memo to staff, new CNN President and CEO Chris Licht, who hasn’t even officially assumed his role yet, informed staffers of the decision Thursday morning. Service manager Andrew Morse is leaving the company, Licht said.

“While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for CNN’s long-term success. It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that drive our singular goal: to make journalism even better. of CNN and its reputation as a global news leader,” Mr. Licht said in a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The decision to shut down the service on April 30 comes just days after CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, was acquired by Discovery Communications. Discovery executives were dubious about the service’s strategy even before it reached a deal to acquire the company, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking.

CNN’s old regime, with the backing of former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, spent $300 million to grow CNN+ and plans to invest another $750 million in the next few years, people close to them have said. of the operation. CNN has courted big names, including Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, to join the service.

Some content from CNN+ will be moved to other platforms at parent company Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.,

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Mr. Licht told the staff in his memo. The HBO Max streaming service is a likely landing spot for some of that content, a person familiar with the matter said.

CNN+, which launched on March 29, lacked market enthusiasm and had less than 100,000 subscribers, the person said. Its price of $5.99 per month was considered prohibitive by Discovery executives and some CNN insiders, the person said. The majority of the content was not live news, but mostly softer fare such as Mr Wallace’s interview shows where he often chatted with longtime celebrities such as William Shatner and Joan Collins.

Due to its relationships with pay-TV distributors, CNN was limited in the amount of live news and content it could deliver on its CNN+ platform. Without the urgency of breaking news, the site was seen as a hard sell by Discovery executives, who would rather invest more in the channel and its existing online platform, the person said.

The decision to shut down CNN+ “is consistent with [Warner Bros. Discovery]of the broader direct-to-consumer strategy,” Mr. Licht told staff in his memo. “In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and a comprehensive service that delivers a better experience and more value than standalone offerings.”

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, said at a town hall meeting last week that it would rather have all of the vast entertainment and news company’s content under one platform than launch individual services for different channels.

Rival Fox News’ Fox Nation has more than a million subscribers, a person familiar with the operation said. But Fox News is also known for its hugely loyal following, and the service offers both entertainment fare as well as content from some of its biggest names, including Tucker Carlson. Fox News owner Fox Corp. and parent company The Wall Street Journal share common ownership.

Even within CNN, there was confusion over the strategy behind CNN+, producers and reporters said.

Mr. Licht said CNN executive Alex MacCallum would oversee CNN’s digital operations. A CNN veteran with previous stints at The New York Times and The Washington Post, Ms. MacCallum was most recently general manager of CNN+ and chief product officer for CNN Worldwide.

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