It’s been quite a week for the streaming industry. After Netflix reported its first net subscriber loss in a decade, it didn’t seem like the news could get any worse, until things got worse for the news.
On Thursday, Warner Bros. Discovery announced that it’s shutting down CNN+, the current-affairs streaming arm of cable news stalwart CNN. The embarrassing about-face comes just weeks after the service launched. Its last day online will be April 30.
Broken Telephone Leads to Canceled Television
As of today, CNN+ is a mere 24 days old, yet its parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, is practically a baby by comparison. It was formed just two weeks ago, after WarnerMedia divested from AT&T and merged with Discovery. As it turns out, the merger drama may well have helped bring about CNN+’s swift demise.
CNN+ moved ahead at the behest of Jason Kilar, the former WarnerMedia CEO who until recently claimed the streaming service — with obviously huge ratings draws like, er, Jake Tapper’s Book Club — was beating expectations. At the same time, David Zaslav, the former Discovery CEO who took over Warner Bros. Discovery, thought it was a bad idea from the start, sources told Variety. Apparently, Zaslav was none too happy that Kilar had launched so soon after the merger, with development costs alone reaching $300 million. Unfortunately, Variety reported, Zaslav was barred from voicing his concerns to WarnerMedia management due to pre-merger legal restrictions. And so, the new boss ended up canceling CNN+ almost as soon as it started. The numbers speak for themselves:
- CNN+ had roughly just 100,000 subscribers after two weeks, Variety reports, and Discovery executives thought the monthly $5.99 price tag was too much to ask for what ended up being a collection of soft public-affairs programming.
- Because of CNN’s relationships with pay-TV distributors, CNN+ was limited in what it could show from its sister TV network. This pales in comparison to Fox News’ rival service Fox Nation, which has a million subscribers and comes with access to marquee broadcasts like Tucker Carlson Tonight.
At Least Something Works: On Thursday, AT&T’s final earnings disclosure with Warner properties included revealed that HBO and its HBO Max streaming service, now the property of Warner Bros. Discovery, added 3 million subscribers in the first three months of 2022, for a total of 74 million. Some CNN+ content will reportedly move to HBO Max — apparently because it has not yet underwhelmed enough viewers.