Not So Breaking News: CNN+ Demise Was Predictable

Streaming fatigue is certainly here. Some of the earlier players might be breathing a sigh of relief -- Fox Nation, perhaps -- when looking at what has gone down at CNN with CNN+.

For TV news wannabe streamers, there are different scenarios going on here -- complicated by the existing issue that TV news content is still essentially live and linear. And that's the rub.

Legacy pay TV systems -- cable, satellite, telco, virtual operators -- pay big carriage fees for the somewhat live exclusive news content on a Fox News Channel, MSNBC or CNN.

But both separate streaming services Fox Nation and CNN+ offer differentiated news/unscripted content, like news magazine stories. Both need to offer content that for the most part doesn't conflict with the live, mostly exclusive content that is distributed by traditional pay TV providers.

The second point is timing. Fox Nation started up four years ago -- in November 2018 -- when there was less sensitivity to streaming fatigue and, of course, subscription pricing.



CNN+ was already in process, long before Discovery Inc. made a deal for WarnerMedia, to expand to a streaming business.

The third point is the product line. Fox Corp. as a now independent, somewhat modestly sized media company doesn't have big premium, wide-scale subscription streaming plans -- versus, for example, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Paramount Global.

While Fox Corp.'s Tubi TV -- a free, ad-supported streaming service -- does have some original content, its focus is mostly a broad library of movies and TV shows.

Now that Warner Bros. Discovery is up and running, Discovery made quick work of pulling the plug on CNN+ -- especially after the initial sign-up results showed very weak interest. The latest estimates for CNN+ put it at 150,000 subscribers.

All this brings us back to a business decision among all big prospective and new streamers to offer a wide range of programming -- scripted, non-scripted, news and sports programming -- all under one roof.

These are also big operations that offer many options-- subscription (no ads), limited-advertising with subscription, and even free (Peacock, for one).

Considering that Discovery always ran a lean TV network operation, it not surprising that it would make some big adjustments to fit the WarnerMedia business structure -- although probably not putting the kibosh on CNN.

This is not to say that CNN content won't be on any combined Warner Bros. Discovery streaming platform -- HBO Max/discovery+. It will most likely be a “tile” -- an onscreen area on its streaming program guide that viewers can click on to.

But answer this question: Did Warner Media executives, including out-going Jason Kilar, its chief executive officer, consider this option going forward? And how could it have misfired this badly? Did the research offer any hint of this?

Delusions of grandeur may be the answer. The big CNN machine must have believed it could walk a tightrope in a newfangled world of magazine, talk, news-adjacent topics without live news content -- and that new consumers would come running.

Instead, the run became a walk -- for all concerned -- in the opposite direction.

Next story loading loading..