I’m torn between skepticism and credulity. On the one hand, this comes from Charles Gasparino, a correspondent for Fox Business. CNN has done so much unflattering coverage of Fox over the past five years that I imagine it’d be irresistible to a Fox reporter to amplify an unflattering rumor about their new streaming project. Even if there’s no hard evidence to support it.
On the other hand, a concept like CNN+ seems doomed to fail quickly, no? Which demographic out there is willing to pay money for more content from a cable network that’s chronically in third place in the ratings? Fox and MSNBC at least can leverage hardcore partisan bases.
Put it this way. If Gasparino’s wrong and they’re not already preparing for layoffs, they probably should be.
Breaking: @CNNplus employees bracing for layoffs possibly as soon as May amid projections of lackluster sales of new streaming channel; CNN employees say new streaming channel could be merged into larger @discoveryplus as early as May unless subscriptions pick up 130 @FoxBusiness
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) March 30, 2022
That’s a bad bit of mojo for a platform that’s literally two days old. If CNN+ were innovative, the first streaming news platform, I could imagine it making some dough from the sheer gee-whiz factor. But by entering a market that’s saturated with streaming services, it’s competing not just with Fox but with Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and so on. Who wants to pop for an extra six bucks a month to watch CNN+ when you’re already being soaked with subscription fees from half a dozen other services or more?
I suppose the target demographic here is people who’ve cut the cord entirely, leaving them unable to watch cable news and in the market for a la carte TV journalism with a somewhat less overt ideological bent. A platform that was doing nothing but hardcore remote reporting from Ukraine and other international theaters might justify the cost. But six bucks a month to watch Chris Wallace do news-adjacent interviews with celebrities?
Here’s what’s on #WhosTalkingToChrisWallace tonight: actors #MilaKunis & @aplusk and world-famous @chefjoseandres on how their lives have been put on hold to support Ukrainian refugees. Stream it tonight at 6 p.m. ET, exclusively on #CNNPlus. pic.twitter.com/h20UjdoDQK
— CNN+ (@CNNplus) March 30, 2022
Research shows that cord-cutters are much less likely than pay-TV subscribers to say that news programming is “very important.” And news viewers skew older, a demographic that’s less likely to consume media online.
But hey. For your six bucks, you get Brian Stelter at 11 a.m. ET. Every day.
Or rather, three bucks. CNN+ is offering a special promotion for the next month:
Sign up for #CNNPlus today and get 50% off your subscription (for life) 👉 https://t.co/XjOaTvyOQq.
Launch offer: $2.99/month (standard price $5.99/month). One offer per customer. Cancel anytime. Limited time offer ends 4/26/22. pic.twitter.com/GLMkrDuL3D
— CNN+ (@CNNplus) March 29, 2022
We shouldn’t read too much into that since companies often offer deals to early adapters. But half-price subscriptions for life does suggest a certain desperation at HQ.
The only person whom I suspect is totally safe if CNN+ goes belly up is Wallace. He’s a bigger name in journalism than most of CNN’s hosts and they’ve paid him too much to simply send him packing if things don’t work out for the platform. I assume they’ll switch him over to the big network and maybe hand him Chris Cuomo’s old slot if all else fails. If the new boss is serious about pivoting away from MSNBC-lite opinion to hard news, putting Wallace in primetime would make a statement about seriousness of purpose.
Whatever happens, he certainly isn’t going back to Fox:
“I’m fine with opinion: conservative opinion, liberal opinion,” Mr. Wallace said in his first extensive interview about his decision to leave. “But when people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”
“I spent a lot of 2021 looking to see if there was a different place for me to do my job,” he added…
He confirmed reports that he was so alarmed by Mr. Carlson’s documentary “Patriot Purge” — which falsely suggested the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation intended to demonize conservatives — that he complained directly to Fox News management.
“Before, I found it was an environment in which I could do my job and feel good about my involvement at Fox,” Mr. Wallace said of his time at the network. “And since November of 2020, that just became unsustainable, increasingly unsustainable as time went on.”
Wallace, Hannity, and Maddow at 9 p.m. ET each weeknight would be … different.
Exit question: Which platform will fail more spectacularly, CNN+ or Trump’s Truth Social site? Don’t place your bets until you’re read this.
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