News and Analysis

CNN+ May Be On The Chopping Block — Execs Axe ‘All External Marketing’: Report
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MARCH 15: People walk by the world headquarters for CNN on March 15, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. Last month CNN's president Jeff Zucker resigned over a consensual, but unreported, relationship with a colleague. Television producer Chris Licht will become the company's new president in April. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

CNN’s fledgling streaming service CNN+ may already be heading for the internet archives, according to a Tuesday scoop from Axios.

The subscription service from the cable news giant has reportedly been struggling from the very beginning, and the news that its fate is still unsettled comes less than one month after its March 29 launch date.

Despite insiders at CNN reportedly believing the launch went well, executives at Warner Bros. Discovery apparently disagree — and have responded by laying off CNN’s chief financial officer and terminating “all external marketing” for the streaming service while they determine the best course of action for its future.

According to the Axios report, there are several factors influencing the possible outcomes. First, despite projecting two million subscribers in the first year and profitability after four, CNN+ has only signed on about 150,000 so far — even with a discounted monthly price offering for those who sign up in the first five weeks. The streaming service’s average daily viewership, according to CNBC, is fewer than 10,000.

“CNN sought to make a huge splash with CNN+, luring big-name talent from rival news networks, such as Kasie Hunt from NBC News and Chris Wallace from Fox News,” CNBC reported. “But there is broad skepticism whether there’s enough demand to sustain a stand-alone news streaming service, with entertainment-first options dominating the landscape. Disney+, for instance, posted more than 10 million subscribers on its first day.”

Second, sources told Axios that CNN+ is not the only streaming service in the works — and that “Warner Bros. Discovery wants to eventually build one giant service around HBO Max.”

In addition, structural changes are already underway. Former CNN CFO Brad Ferrer has been replaced by “Neil Chugani, Discovery’s current CFO for streaming and international, as part of a broader finance team restructuring.” Sources predict that other positions are also likely to be streamlined in the near future.

The report also indicated that the decision to launch prior to the CNN/Warner Bros. Discovery merger may have played a role in the current tensions, noting that if CNN had delayed the launch until afterward, they could have tweaked the service to align better with Discovery’s plans for future offerings.

Critics warned before the launch that CNN+ was likely to crash and burn. Veteran shock jock and Sirius XM radio host Howard Stern mocked the set-up, asking why they believed anyone would pay to watch more from a network they didn’t want to watch for free.

Even CNN’s regular programming has seen a dramatic drop in ratings in recent months, averaging just over 500,000 viewers the week of January 3, 2022, compared to 2.7 million the same week of 2021.

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