Well, that didn’t take long. Less than one month after its launch, CNN+ has died in what may turn out to be one of the biggest digital media bungles in recent years.
The beleaguered streaming service will be put out of its misery on April 30 according to a press release shared with Gizmodo. In its statement, Warner Bros. Discovery discovery said it made the decision in part to focus attention on building out is CNN Digital service. Pitiful viewer numbers probably didn’t help either.
Recent reports suggest, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav opposed the CNN+ model and instead wanted to bring all of CNN’s brands under one single unified service. CNN+ customers who already purchased a yearly $US60 ($83) subscription will reportedly receive pro-rated refunds.
“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,” Discovery’s head of streaming J.B. Perrette said in a statement. “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.”
Some of the CNN+ original programming will reportedly live on through a future streaming service or on CNN‘s main television network. Hundreds of CNN+ staffers meanwhile are poised to lose their jobs once their pay and benefits expire in 90 days, according to CNN.
CNN Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of CNN Worldwide Andrew Morse will also leave the company as part of the transition.
CNN+ debuted on March 29 with an asking price of $US6 ($8)/month or $US60 ($83)/year. For that chunk of change, users got access to CNN live TV as well as an inventory of original programming including Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, Parental Guidance with Anderson Cooper and No Mercy No Malice, with Scott Galloway, and rights to shows like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. The cable giant had high hopes for the service but it was clear almost immediately they had a disaster on their hands.
Last week, a CNN spokesperson told CNBC only 10,000 people were watching the service daily. That’s a tiny fraction of the 773,000 average total viewers a day watching CNN’s cable channel. While CNN publicly said they were pleased with the service’s progress, recent reporting told a different story. An Axios report earlier this week claimed Warner Bros. Discovery had suspended all external marketing for the service and revealed the company had laid off CNN’ s chief financial office. That’s significant because if you’re like me, you’ve probably seen a fair share of annoying ads for the platforms popping up just about everywhere you turn online. It’s unclear how much CNN spent on external marketing for CNN+.
The CNN+ implosion stands as one of the worst digital media disasters in recent memory, topped only by short form video site Quibi which shut down after around six months.
CNN+ was at least granted the decency of a quick death.