Following Warner Bros. Discovery's announcement that it will shut down CNN+ on April 30, a month after its launch, the company's leadership shared more specifics and some remarkably blunt remarks in a meeting with CNN staff on Thursday afternoon.
CNN CEO Chris Licht described the shutdown as a "uniquely shitty situation," and stressed to staff that "it is not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you," according to CNN Business. "This was an incredibly successful launch" but conflicted with the the new company's strategy, he said.
Discovery streaming chief J.B. Perrette told staff that "some of this was avoidable," but "prior leadership decided to just keep going" -- a reference to Jason Kilar, who was WarnerMedia CEO until just before that company officially merged with Discovery in early April, and Jeff Zucker, who was president of CNN until his resignation in February.
In a nutshell, the CNN+ launch did not fit with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav's plan to integrate all of the company's brands in a single streaming service.
A statement from Perrette explained the decision this way: "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."
Hundreds of CNN staff could lose their jobs, according to CNN Business, which quoted one as describing the mood during the meeting as gradually turning from "total and utter shock" to sadness.
In addition to all CNN employees receiving pay and benefits for the next 90 days, those who cannot find other jobs within CNN, CNN Digital or elsewhere at Warner Bros. Discovery will receive a minimum of six months' severance, according to Licht.
The fate of new programming developed for CNN+ has yet to be announced. Some may migrate to the CNN network.
But the company has "gone out of its way to make clear that it is committed to finding roles for CNN+ hosts," according to an agent who spoke to CNN Business.