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CNN’s streaming service shutting down a month after launch

NEW YORK (AP) – CNN is shutting down its CNN+ streaming service less than a month after its launch, a spectacular flameout for a venture that had attracted stars like Chris Wallace and Alison Roman and was seen as a way to attract a new generation of news consumers.

It had started on March 29, shortly before CNN was taken over by new corporate parents.

The new leaders of Warner Bros Discovery quickly let it be known they considered CNN+ an ill-conceived idea.

The subscription-based service will be shut down at the end of April. Executives said some CNN+ programming and employees will be absorbed but there will be layoffs. The head of CNN+ Andrew Morse, is leaving the company.

In a memo to employees on Thursday, incoming CNN Chief Executive Chris Licht said consumers wanted “simplicity and an all-in service” rather than stand-alone offerings.

Discovery had previously suggested that it wanted to merge the new company’s separate streaming services, which include Discovery+ and HBO Max, into a single app. In a Thursday town hall, executives also said that the service’s inability to show live breaking news was a crucial failing.

Because of contracts with cable and satellite companies, CNN+ could not stream the CNN television network. “It’s a little bit like The New York Times subscription without The New York Times,” said head of Discovery’s streaming services JB Perrette.

The logo for the CNN streaming service CNN+ which debuted on March 29. PHOTO: AP

Perrette said Discovery had learnt from trying to launch its own news service in Poland, and in seeing the experiences of other paid streaming services in the United States (US) like Fox Nation, that CNN+ could not expect to get near one million subscribers.

Unlike CNN+, which was charging customers USD5.99 a month, broadcast networks like ABC, CBS and NBC offer free news-streaming.

“Those are the facts,” Perrette said. “We’ve learnt from painful history, financially costly history.”

Under AT&T, there were USD100 million in development costs and some 500 employees assigned to building CNN+. Perrette told them they would have “first dibs” on some 100 job openings at CNN. In the meeting, a CNN staff member wondered why AT&T, CNN’s previous corporate owner, was allowed to develop and start the service with new management coming in that had its reservations about it.

But executives said they were not allowed to be involved in meetings about the service. They said accountability for the failure lies with previous management.

Warner Bros Discovery is led by Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who has his own vision for CNN and its Warner siblings.

Licht said in his memo that the “incredibly difficult” decision to shutter CNN+ is the right one for the long-term success of CNN, allowing them to refocus resources towards the core product, “further enhancing CNN’s journalism and its reputation as a global news leader”.

On the television network, Licht is expected to increase CNN’s emphasis on news coverage with less commentary.