CNN, record holder for shortest streaming service, wants another shot

: The logo of the US tv channel CNN is shown on the display of a smartphone on April 22, 2020

On March 29, 2022, CNN+, CNN’s take on a video streaming service, debuted. On April 28, 2022, it shuttered, making it the fastest shutdown of any launched streaming service. Despite that discouraging superlative, CNN has plans for another subscription-based video streaming platform, Financial Times (FT) reported on Wednesday.

Mark Thompson, who took CNN’s helm in August 2023, over a year after CNN+’s demise, spoke with FT about evolving the company. The publication reported that Thompson is “working on plans for a digital subscription streaming service.” The executive told the publication that a digital subscription, including digital content streaming, is “a serious possibility,” adding, “no decisions had been made, but I think it’s quite likely that we’ll end up there.”

CNN++, or whatever a new CNN streaming package might be named, would not just be another CNN+, per Thompson.

“We’ll know in a few years time if we’re beginning to make progress, even if that still doesn’t look like it because of the aggregation of declining platforms and growing ones,” he said, requesting patience regarding the next chapter in CNN streaming.

Thompson noted that success “won’t happen overnight,” which suggests a slow timeline.

CNN+’s short ride

Thompson told FT that CNN+ was “a big, bold experiment which was abandoned rather briskly.”

Company executives discussed plans for a CNN streaming service as early as December 2020, and in May 2021, employees learned that CNN+ was happening, Deadline reported. By July 2021, CNN confirmed the plans publicly.

But under a year later, CNN+ was no longer available, with the closure largely viewed as a casualty of parent company WarnerMedia merging with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) 10 days after CNN+’s launch. The merger meant CNN now had a parent company that already owned the Discovery+ streaming service and HBO Max; it also had interest in merging Discovery content with that of HBO. In August 2022, a few months after CNN+ closed, WBD announced Max as its flagship streaming service, merging what was formerly HBO Max with Discovery+.

“In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in[-one] service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings,” Discovery’s streaming boss J.B. Perrette said in statement regarding CNN+’s closure.

CNN+ accrued high-profile news anchors, and in its three weeks of availability, it had an estimated subscriber count of 100,000–150,000, according to Variety, which reported that the early figure put the streaming service on track for year-one quotas. However, CNBC later reported that daily viewership was just around 4,000, citing an anonymous source.

In an internal meeting, Perrette showed “frustration” that CNN moved forward with CNN+’s rollout despite its parent company’s merger plans, according to CNN. Perrette reportedly told employees that “some of this was avoidable.” CNN’s report noted that during the merger process, Discovery executives were not legally allowed to communicate with CNN executives.

CNN+’s 29-day existence makes it the shortest-lived streaming service. It took the record from Quibi, which launched in April 8, 2020, and announced on October 21, 2020, that it was throwing in the towel (Roku eventually bought Quibi for cheap).

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