Warner Bros. Discovery to shutter CNN+ after one month

Streaming service CNN+ is to shut down after just one month of operation.

The much-hyped SVOD, which launched at the end of March, will cease to operate on April 30 after a decision from Warner Bros. Discovery executives.

The news was confirmed to hundreds of staffers by CNN CEO Chris Licht on Thursday, where he told employees that the company wants to house all of its streaming efforts under one roof. 

The announcement came hours after CNN+ announced a blockbuster interview with president Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki with Chris Wallace. The former Fox News anchor’s position currently remains unclear.

Prior to the close of the US$43 billion merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, the company confirmed that it intended to eventually merge HBO Max and discovery+ into one streaming powerhouse. However, there was little indication at that time that this move would have further ramifications on its other streaming products, making the news a shock to staff internally. It is likely that much of the high-profile and big budget content produced and slated for CNN+ will make its way to the new look HBO Max-discovery+ hybrid.

Licht also confirmed that CNN+’s boss, Andrew Morse, will depart the company after a transition period. The exec in a townhall described CNN+ as “an incredibly successful launch” but said that the streamer did not align with the new company’s strategy and blamed previous leadership decisions made by former WarnerMedia execs.

“It is not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you,” Licht said. “Some of this was avoidable [but] prior leadership decided to just keep going.”

The jobs of hundreds of CNN+ employees are currently at risk, with Licht in a memo confirming that all staff “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.” Laid off staff will receive a minimum of six months of severance.

In a public statement, Warner Bros. Discovery’s newly appointed streaming boss JB Perette said: “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. We have very exciting opportunities ahead in the streaming space and CNN, one of the world’s premier reputational assets, will play an important role there.”

CNN+ had been internally heralded as the news network’s most important moment since the network’s initial launch by Ted Turner in 1980. The streamer, which offered both live streams and on-demand content, had poured hundreds of millions into content and talent acquisition, poaching the likes of NBC’s Katie Hunt and Fox News’s Chris Wallace.

Despite the hype from CNN, initial public reaction to the streamer was apparently muted. Axios said that the service has only signed up around 150,000 users with CNBC reporting that fewer than 10,000 people were using it on a daily basis. 

CNN’s mainstream news rivals have taken alternative approaches to streaming. NBCUniversal-owned MSNBC has recently launched a dedicated hub within its Peacock streaming service, which provides access to the live channel along with an offering of Peacock news originals, while the far-right propaganda outfit Fox News operates its standalone Fox Nation streamer for US$5.99 per month – the same fee initially demanded by CNN+.

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