TV News Nets' Streaming Swim: Dive In The Deep End Or Wade In The Kiddie Pool?

Much time has been focused on high-value cable TV sports networks in the post-traditional pay TV world. But what about the second best -- and some would say more consistent -- programming on cable -- TV news networks?

Here is what longtime media/advertising analyst Brian Wieser wrote recently in a Substack column: “General entertainment may be worse off in the future than it was in the past, but at least its future as a part of streaming entertainment is clear enough. It's not clear that on-demand streaming works for news.”

In particular, he focuses on CNN -- generally the third-highest cable TV news network in terms of U.S. viewership, behind Fox News Channel and MSNBC.



CNN bungled its effort around streaming -- amid a high-profile start of CNN+, only to almost immediately shut it down a couple of months later.

Fox News Channel seems to have the best results with Fox Nation. But that effort is more about general non-scripted content with near zero levels of real-time news -- although there is still opinionated content.

MSNBC is generally more daring in its effort with its upstart, NBC News Now, offering more traditional news content.

The rub, of course, for all of these networks, is walking the fine line of its traditional pay TV distributors -- cable, satellite, telco and virtual -- in not offering up similar content on streaming platforms for news that, in fact, would compete with those channels on pay TV.

Distributors would loudly complain about that. 

CNN has a different sort of competition situation when it comes to streaming: Trying to compete for financial and other resources against other Warner Bros. Discovery entertainment networks/platforms, which are also looking for cash and the wherewithal to grow. This comes as WBD still has $48 billion in debt to pay down.

The company is still in cost-cutting mode and why Discovery Inc.,  as new owners of WarnerMedia and CNN back in April 8, 2022, made fast work of going negative on CNN+: Closing that business less than 20 days after its launch on April 30.

Fox News Channel and MSNBC at least are dipping their feet in these waters. CNN is still on the beach, trying to stay out of the hot sun.

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