CNN+ shutters just one month after launch

It’s curtains for fledgling streaming service CNN+, which will officially shutter on April 30, just a month after launching in late March.  

The decision to cease operations was made and announced Thursday by parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, consisting of newly merged WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc., which plans to focus investment on CNN’s core news-gathering operations.

“As we become Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN will be strongest as part of WBD’s streaming strategy which envisions news as an important part of a compelling broader offering along with sports, entertainment, and nonfiction content,” said Chris Licht, Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide. “We have therefore made the decision to cease operations of CNN+ and focus our investment on CNN’s core news-gathering operations and in further building CNN Digital.”

CNN+ didn’t attract a huge audience out of the gate, with reports earlier this month that the service had fewer than 10,000 daily viewers, compared to CNN’s cable viewership average of 773,000 viewers a day, according to CNBC. CNN spent $300 million to build up the platform and initial plans had called for $1 billion in product investment for CNN+ over the next four years, but WBD said it wants to focus investment on CNN’s core news gathering operations.

The company is also looking to offer a simpler streaming choice.

“This is not a decision about quality; we appreciate all of the work, ambition and creativity that went into building CNN+, an organization with terrific talent and compelling programming. But our customers and CNN will be best served with a simpler streaming choice,” Licht continued.

CNN+ programming will become part of WBD’s broader streaming strategy, with a strategic focus on CNN Digital and CNN Worldwide.

It was a short-lived run for CNN+, which debuted on March 29, charging $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year. With operations ceasing, CNN+ customers will receive prorated refunds of subscription fees, according to WBD.

The news comes just a day after WBD suspended all external marketing spend on CNN+ and laid off CNN CFO Brad Ferrer.

In related personnel news, Andrew Morse, head of CNN+ and EVP, Chief Digital Officer of CNN Worldwide, has decided to leave the company. Stepping in to lead CNN Digital is Alex MacCallum, CNN Worldwide, head of product and general manager for CNN+. MacCallum will work with Licht to determine a leadership strategy going forward.

“It has been an honor to work alongside the world’s best journalists these past nine years, and I could not be prouder of what we built together with CNN Digital and CNN+. Our journalism has never been stronger, nor has it reached more people in more places across more platforms than it does today,” said Morse. “I am a great believer that change is critical – for individuals and for organizations. As the company enters an exciting period of change, it is a logical time to make a change for myself. I’ll always be rooting for CNN.”

It looks like an “all-in” service is part of the future strategy, as J.B. Perrett, CEO and president of Global Streaming and Interactive Entertainment at WBD, emphasized that the CNN brand and content will be key to the company’s direct-to-consumer service.

“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,” 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.’’