I’ve been bearish on the platform from the start — as have you, as has everyone — but not in my wildest dreams did I think it would flame out this quickly.
It launched on March 29. It barely lasted three weeks!
They paid Chris Wallace millions to make the jump from Fox News to be the face of this platform.
Warner Bros. Discovery is shutting down CNN+ and is expected to provide details Thursday, according to two people familiar with the matter, marking one of the company’s first significant maneuvers since completing the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery less than two weeks ago.
Spokespersons for CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery could not be reached for immediate comment. The decision puts an end to a venture that people familiar with the matter say rankled David Zaslav, the new CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, from the start. Zaslav was annoyed by the decison of Jason Kilar, the former CEO of WarnerMedia when it was owned by AT&T, to launch CNN+ just weeks before Discovery was set to take over operations.
Shall we do a brief history of our coverage of CNN+? Perhaps a hint that today’s news was coming might be found in the headlines.
March 30: “Report: One day after launch, CNN+ already preparing for layoffs?”
April 12: “Here we go: CNN+ already set for “big cuts” after few consumers subscribe following launch”
April 19: “Uh oh: Parent company suspends all external marketing for CNN+, lays off CNN’s CFO”
That last post is especially worth reading as it cites an Axios item describing the intense annoyance at Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s new owner, that the platform went live before the merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery was complete. The new company has a lot of debt and is looking to cut costs where it can; the last thing it needed was the launch of an untested new streaming platform whom no one but Jeff Zucker saw the value in. Obviously CNN and Warner Bros. should have postponed the launch until after Discovery had decided whether it could afford to follow through with it. Instead, apparently trying to force Discovery to support CNN+, they went ahead with the launch anyway.
Essentially, CNN was saying to Discovery, “You wouldn’t dare shut down this very expensive streaming service after it’s already broadcasting, would you?” Well, guess what.
Stand by for updates. It’s an historic fiasco. A question for now: They have to move Chris Wallace over to CNN now, right? They’re not just going to eat his contract while getting nothing out of him.
Update: Here’s Brian Stelter, who hosted a daily show on CNN+, reporting on his own platform’s demise. Noteworthy: “David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, has said that he wants to house all of the company’s brands under one streaming service. Some CNN+ programming may eventually live on through that service.” The Axios story I mentioned had also flagged that possibility. WBD evidently wants to build a mega-streaming service around HBO Max and Discovery+ and there was talk that CNN+ might be tacked on to sweeten the pot for cord-cutters. But today’s news makes it sound like they’re abandoning ship on the idea of CNN+ altogether. Maybe a more limited news feature to the new mega-streaming service will be born out of CNN+. Hosted by Chris Wallace, perhaps?
Stelter was promoting CNN+ as recently as a few hours ago, by the way:
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) April 21, 2022
Update: Operations will cease on April 30, per Axios. I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see something replace New Coke as a byword for business disasters.
Update: It’s official. Note the bit here about consumers wanting an “all-in” streaming service rather than standalone offerings.
— Sara Fischer (@sarafischer) April 21, 2022
Axios claims that some CNN+ programming might survive on CNN’s app.
Update: Hoo boy. “At least one CNN+ staffer, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast they were made aware of the news from the breaking news reports. ‘Yeah, we haven’t been told a word. Welp,’ the employees said.”
Update: A “CNN insider” tells Mediaite that the platform had potential but “there were certainly some questionable programming decisions.” Uh, yes.
Update: Discovery tried to make clear before the merger that it wasn’t sold on CNN+ but CNN just kept plowing ahead. One exec complained about that in a meeting with staffers today, per Stelter:
During the town hall, Perrette expressed some frustration with the “prior leadership” of CNN, which was led by Jeff Zucker until February, and WarnerMedia, which was led by Jason Kilar until early April.
“Some of this was avoidable,” he said, but “prior leadership decided to just keep going” with the planned March launch of CNN+ despite the impending merger, he said.
Subscribers (all five of them) will be given pro-rated refunds, apparently. Staffers will either be fired with at least six months’ severance or will move over to CNN.