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CNN +’s service terminates one month after release

CNN shut down CNN + about a month after its release, a sign of its new owners’ lack of faith in the viability of an autonomous subscription-based news platform.

The decision to unplug CNN +, which started irresistibly, came less than two weeks after CNN’s ownership was transferred from AT&T Inc. at a start-up called Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.,

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the result of the merger of the entertainment and news assets of the telecommunications giant and Discovery.

Addressing CNN officials during an emotional meeting at City Hall on Thursday, CNN chairman and CEO Chris Licht – who has not yet officially taken office – said the decision to shut down CNN + so soon after its onset created an extremely bad situation, according to one attendee. Mr. Licht and others at Warner Bros. Discovery pointed the finger at AT&T and the former WarnerMedia Entertainment unit to launch the service on the eve of the new administration’s entry.

“We have to take ownership of what happened, even though it is not the result of what we did,” said Licht. CNN + will close on April 30, he said in a note earlier Thursday.

The collapse of CNN + shows the unique challenges of building a news streaming business that can not stream live TV or its highest content without violating contractual obligations with pay-TV providers. Instead of offering access to CNN shows such as “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and “Anderson Cooper 360 °”, CNN + featured less news songs such as “Jake Tapper’s Book Club” and “Parental Guidance With Anderson Cooper”.

CNN has also attracted big names in outside talent for its streaming service, including former Fox News presenter Chris Wallace. Backed by former WarnerMedia chief executive Jason Kilar, the previous CNN regime spent $ 300 million developing CNN + with plans to invest another $ 750 million in the coming years, say people familiar with the operation.

Since its release on March 29, CNN + has attracted less than 100,000 subscribers, said one familiar with the feature, and the $ 5.99 price per month was considered prohibitive by Discovery executives who questioned the service’s viability before from traffic.

Part of the content from CNN + will be transferred to other platforms of the parent Warner Bros. Discovery, including CNN, Mr. Licht told staff during the meeting. The HBO Max streaming service is also a potential landing point for some of this content, he said.

In a note to staff, Mr Licht said the decision was difficult but necessary. “It’s right for CNN’s long-term success,” Licht said in a note reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. “It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that guide our focus: further enhancing CNN journalism and its reputation as a global news leader.”

Thursday’s decision was telegraphed last week by David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, who said at a recent City Hall meeting across the company that he would prefer to have all the content from the huge entertainment and news company under one platform instead of releasing individual services across multiple channels.

As part of the unrest, Andrew Morse, the CNN executive overseeing CNN +, is leaving the company. Mr. Morse could not be reached for comment. Mr Licht said CNN executive Alex MacCallum would oversee CNN’s digital operations. A former CNN veteran for the New York Times and the Washington Post, Ms. MacCallum was most recently CNN + ‘s general manager and product manager for CNN Worldwide.

Mr Licht said CNN + employees would be paid for the next three months and would be able to explore potential jobs elsewhere at the company.

The news about the closure of CNN + was broadcast earlier by Variety.

During Thursday’s town hall, JB Perrette, the Discovery executive who was named CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery streaming and interactive features, he said, the company was unable to obtain information about CNN + prior to its release due to legal restrictions restricting their access to service programming. .

“The previous leadership just went on,” he said. “It makes it worse for us who come here.”

An AT&T spokesman was not immediately available for comment. Mr Kilar did not respond to a request for comment. A former WarnerMedia executive said Discovery was well-informed on CNN + and did not raise red flags.

Because of its relationship with pay-TV distributors, CNN limited itself to the number of live news and content it could upload to the CNN + platform. Without the urgency of the breaking news, the site was seen as a tough sale by Discovery executives, said a person close to the company. Most of the content was mostly mild, like Mr. Wallace’s interviews, where he often chatted with longtime celebrities such as William Shatner and Joan Collins.

Rival Fox News was more successful in its direct-to-consumer streaming business. Fox Nation’s service has more than a million subscribers, said one person familiar with the feature. But Fox News is also known for a very loyal audience and the service offers both entertainment tickets and content from some of its biggest names, including Tucker Carlson. Fox News owner Fox Corp. and the parent News Corp of the Wall Street Journal are jointly owned.

Mr. Wallace was the most senior employee on CNN +, seduced by Fox News. There is a possibility that his show will be transferred to CNN, said people who know the subject. Some CNN experts also believe that Mr. Wallace could be a candidate to fill the hole in prime time that was left empty after the departure of Chris Cuomo last year. A senior Warner Bros. executive. Discovery said this was unlikely.

Neither Mr. Wallace nor his agent responded to requests for comment.

I write to you Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

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CNN +’s service terminates one month after release

Source link CNN +’s service terminates one month after release

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