CNN+ Shuts Down One Month After Launch Blindsiding New Hires
CNN+, a supplementary streaming service for the 24-hour cabler which was being hyped up with big-name anchor hires including Audie Cornish and Chris Wallace, will be shutting down at the end of this month after only a few weeks in operation.
The launch of the service was unfortunately timed as some executives new to the company via the merger of CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia and Discovery were skeptical of the idea of a niche news streaming site. Despite worry from the Discovery side that would soon be in control of the network, WarnerMedia executive Jason Kilar kept things moving forward and CNN+ launched on March 29, 2022.
Reports estimate that CNN+ drew a decent 100,000 initial subscribers, but people familiar with the numbers told The New York Times its viewers topped at only 10,000 per day. Discovery executives convened when ownership of WarnerMedia was completed on April 11 and reportedly concluded on an immediate cease of marketing for CNN+, with the decision to ax the streamer coming less than two weeks later.
In a somber address to blindsided staffers on Thursday, incoming CNN president Chris Licht delivered the news along with Discovery’s global head of streaming JB Perrette. Licht said this call “is the right one for the long-term success of CNN,” but admitted, “It’s not your fault you had the rug pulled out from underneath you.”
Perrette called this disaster “avoidable” and laid some blame on the feet of former CNN executive Jeff Zucker along with Kilar’s call to launch the streamer right before the merger anyway. “Prior leadership decided to just keep going,” despite their warnings he reportedly said. He also noted Discovery has a “painful” history with more niche-focused streamers, saying “we have failed almost at every turn launching those products.”
CNN+ had hired over 300 staffers by the time of this announcement, many poached from other shows or networks. Licht mentioned some employees will be transferred into open positions within Warner Bros. Discovery, but mass layoffs are still inevitable with six months worth of severance payments being promised to whoever faces them.
As for the on-air talent that they dropped hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for, and shows already developed for CNN+, they remain in limbo as executives have not outlined a full plan for where they might end up. Some shows may find new homes on such platforms as HBO Max, Discovery+ or CNN.com according to sources close to talent negotiations.