CNN launched its streaming service, CNN+, on Mar. 29.
Three weeks later, the network is already pulling the plug on its $100 million investment — the most spectacular media failure in recent history.
On Thursday, CNN’s incoming chief executive Chris Licht issued a memo announcing the plan to shut down the service at the end of this April.
By the end, CNN+ will have lasted for only about a month.
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In his memo, Licht said consumers wanted “simplicity and an all-in service” rather than “stand-alone offerings.” Discovery had previously suggested that it wanted to merge the new company’s separate streaming services, which include Discovery+ and HBO Max, into a single app.
Licht said some CNN+ content will wind up on other company networks, and the streaming service’s employees will get opportunities to apply for jobs elsewhere inside Warner Bros. Discovery. The head of CNN+, Andrew Morse, is leaving the company.
CNN+ launched when its parent was still part of AT&T. It combined with Discovery earlier this month in a new company, Warner Bros. Discovery, under Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who had his own vision for CNN and its Warner siblings.
“While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN. It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that drive our singular focus: further enhancing CNN’s journalism and its reputation as a global news leader,” Licht wrote.
Under AT&T, there were $100 million in development costs and some 500 employees assigned to building out CNN+. The cable network was poaching big-name pundits like Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel and Audie Cornish of National Public Radio.
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Still, CNN remained in crisis, despite all the star power.
The network, like other cable networks, watched its ratings fall off a cliff last year, according to Nielsen data reviewed by Variety.
That same year, CNN fired its highest-rated host, Chris Cuomo, and it endured a scandal over one producer’s indictment for unlawful sex with a minor.
The network experienced a bump in viewership last month amid its sensational coverage of the war in Ukraine. However, the network apparently failed to harness the energy of that bump.
Wallace has been suffering “daily breakdowns” over the future of the network, one insider told reporter Jon Nicosia earlier this month.
One Biden supporter wrote on Twitter, “Almost nobody watches free CNN. I can’t imagine why they thought it was a good idea to launch a paid CNN.”
Other streaming services have also found themselves struggling.
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Netflix has seen its stock price plunge by 35 percent in just two days.
Almost nobody watches free CNN. I can't imagine why they thought it was a good idea to launch a paid CNN.
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Licht’s memo was obtained by Mediaite.
Read it here —
Today Warner Bros. Discovery and CNN are announcing that we have decided to cease operations at CNN+, effective April 30. I want to share my perspective with you before the news breaks.
This decision is in line with WBD’s broader direct-to-consumer strategy. 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.
Let me be clear: this move is in no way a reflection of the talented and hardworking people who poured their heart and soul into building and flawlessly launching CNN+ in a very short period of time. It also is not a reflection of the quality of the talent and content of CNN+, some of which will migrate to CNN’s programming or some of the company’s other networks. The process for making those decisions is already underway and we will communicate to those affected as quickly as possible.
But most importantly, we are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for our CNN+ colleagues. As part of the transition plan, 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. At the end of that period, any departing CNN+ employee will receive a minimum of six-month severance (depending on length of service at CNN).
We are also announcing that Andrew Morse, Executive Vice President, Chief Digital Officer of CNN Worldwide and Head of CNN+, has decided to leave the company following a transition period. Since joining the network in 2013, Andrew has grown CNN’s global digital business and led it to be the number one digital news destination it is today. Andrew did an incredible job leading the CNN+ team since day one. He also oversees the CNN en Español television network and digital business. I am grateful he will be here to assist in the transition. Please join me in thanking Andrew and wishing him the best on his next adventure.
Moving forward, Alex MacCallum will be overseeing Digital. She and I will work together to develop a strategy that builds on CNN’s dominance in the space.
While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN. It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that drive our singular focus: further enhancing CNN’s journalism and its reputation as a global news leader.
I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.