CNN’s new streaming service, “CNN +,” will shut down on April 30 after a disastrous rollout in the number of subscriptions revealed little appetite for network content behind a paywall.
“The decision was made by new management after CNN’s former parent company, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery,” reported the network’s own Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy on Thursday. “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.”
Axios reported on Wednesday that CNN and Discovery executives disagreed on the new platform’s level of success. It had only signed up about 150,000 subscribers since its March 29 launch, a slow start to the more than 2 million the company hoped to reach by the year’s end.
“Discovery executives are focused mostly on returning CNN to its journalistic core, a point Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav reiterated in a town hall last week,” read Axios. “That includes less of a focus on primetime perspective programming, and more of a focus on hard, breaking news.”
The streaming service’s shutdown is the latest episode illustrating a network in disarray as it rebrands in the post-Trump-presidency era. After the turbulent exit of anchor Chris Cuomo, who was terminated over revelations that he used his primetime perch to protect his brother, the then-embattled governor of New York, the network has struggled to find a replacement for the 9 p.m. time slot. With Discovery wanting to pivot CNN to hard news coverage, it’s unclear whether the primetime lineup will even remain personality-driven opinion, a model that’s failed to compete with Fox News’ consistently high ratings.
According to Variety Magazine in late January, prominent CNN anchors said the network ought to embrace coverage of the Capitol riot from more than a year ago and the Jan. 6 Committee’s ensuing political prosecution of those who staged a protest. The continuing investigation by Democratic lawmakers with Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who were both appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has become the medium through which CNN has remained focused on former President Donald Trump after his White House tenure.
Chris Wallace left his own prestigious job as anchor of Fox News’ flagship Sunday program to join CNN’s new failed subscription service in part over Fox’s coverage of the Jan. 6 turmoil, which diverged from legacy outlets.
“I found that unsustainable,” Wallace told The New York Times in March, but his attempt to cap off a decades-long career by jumping ship at Fox for a gig with CNN Plus provided no more sustainability.
CNN is having an identity crisis. After solidifying itself as purely anti-Trump, the network is at odds with the direction of new management after Jeff Zucker stepped down as president in February. The Jan. 6 Committee was hardest hit.
Where the network will really go remains an open question, but CNN Plus’s part in that future is nothing more than a $300 million blunder.