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Incoming CNN chief Chris Licht reportedly told staffers during a Thursday meeting that they were not to blame for the quick demise of the network’s fledgling streaming service, CNN+.
The news broke earlier that day that the streaming service — which had been plagued by lower-than-expected subscription numbers since its March 29 launch — would be terminated as of April 30 and all subscribers would receive prorated refunds.
According to a report published Thursday by CNN media reporters Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, Licht told staffers in a town hall-style meeting that they had all been presented with “a uniquely s****y situation.”
“It is not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you,” Licht told staffers at the meeting, as he promised to make sure that they felt as little impact as possible from the move.
Stelter and Darcy went on to note that while a number could still lose their jobs, “Licht said in an internal memo that ‘all CNN+ employees will continue to be paid and receive benefits for the next 90 days to explore opportunities at CNN, CNN Digital and elsewhere in the Warner Bros. Discovery family.'”
Once all internal avenues have been exhausted, those who are ultimately let go are expected to see a six-month severance package.
According to Stelter and Darcy, one staffer described the mood at that meeting as “shock” that later gave way to “despair.”
“At first people were really freaking out,” the person revealed under the condition of anonymity. “And then, toward the end of the meeting, it just turned to sadness. Every team was just huddling with each other.”
The decision to terminate the streaming service reportedly came about due to a number of factors — not the least of which being that CNN went ahead with the planned launch despite being just weeks out from the completion of its merger with Warner Bros. Discovery.
“The streaming service ended up launching just two weeks before the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger completed, much to the exasperation of Discovery leadership, which had a different strategy but could not legally communicate with CNN executives before the deal was official,” Stelter and Darcy wrote.
According to multiple reports, leadership at Discovery already had a plan for a much broader, all-encompassing streaming service that would include all the brands under one label.
“In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling,” Discovery’s streaming boss J.B. Perrette said in a statement.
CNN, Perrette added, is expected to “play an important role” once that vision comes to fruition.