WBD’s Max launching 24-7 live news stream CNN Max

Warner Bros. Discovery is incorporating its CNN news asset into the Max SVOD in a new way. On Thursday the company announced plans for a 24/7 live news stream called CNN Max, debuting in the U.S. as part of an open beta test on September 27.

The linear CNN Max feed will feature content from CNN’s domestic and international news channels, with familiar worldwide CNN anchors and new programming created specifically for streaming viewers on Max. CNN Max doesn’t cost extra and is available on all Max plans, including ad-supported, ad-free and the premium tier Max Ultimate ad-free plan.

The Max service, which launched in May as WBD integrated content from Discovery+, already has some CNN content with a CNN Originals hub. That content hub will be renamed to CNN Max, providing access to the live stream along with CNN Originals and additional news content, with over 900 episodes of current and legacy programming.

New content teed up on the platform includes “CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta, Rachel Solomon, Amara Walker and Fredricka Whitfield,” and “CNN Newsroom with Jim Scuitto.”

Scuitto will also lead breaking news coverage on CNN Max in the afternoon.

Other content on the stream includes “Amanpour,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

While in open beta for news on the platform, WBD said CNN Max will allow it to experiment with product features, content offerings and original storytelling for the news genre, with feedback from Max audiences.

In a statement JB Perrette, CEO and president of Global Streaming and Games at WBD, reiterated Max’s vision as a broad entertainment service with the aim of content catering to the entire household.

“CNN Max is differentiated by having 24/7 news at its core from CNN, the leading global news organization, and being available on a scaled streaming service in the U.S., which has a significantly younger and additive audience compared to traditional TV,” stated Perrette. “This provides even more quality choices for Max customers who will be able to easily catch up on what is happening in the world, particularly in moments of breaking news, all within one seamless experience. We’re excited to engage our Max community in this initial beta stage to help us learn and develop what appeals most to our customers in this new genre.”

In June Axios reported that executives were having discussions over how to add some CNN content to the Max SVOD without violating distribution contracts with cable providers. Later reports surfaced that WBD would be adding live CNN feeds to Max, but only overseas, where it would likely be CNN International.

TVREV analyst Alan Wolk in a June column wrote about how WBD “has its hands tied over CNN in the US because it needs all the millions it rakes in from the MVPDs on carriage fees.”

However, he also noted that CNN could have an issue on its hand in terms of relevance as CNN’s average subscriber is already “pretty old.”  (Perrette’s comment above also highlights the “significantly younger, additive” Max audience compared to traditional TV).

“Younger folks, they have many other ways to get the news. So apart from those weeks when, say, Russia invades Ukraine or the US has a presidential election, they have zero interest in watching CNN,” wrote Wolk in June.

“This is a problem because the more cable becomes a thing that older, less tech-savvy people still have, the less aware of it the younger viewers it needs to survive long term will become,” the analyst continued.

He wrote that WBD needed to decide whether cable news has a real future and if so, what it looks like. Today’s announcement sheds some light on WBD’s approach. Though whether the addition of a live CNN feed to the Max platform can generate that younger-audience awareness Wolk believes it lacks, remains to be seen.

CNN also briefly had its own standalone streaming service and app, CNN+, which launched in late March 2022 and was promptly shuttered just one month later soon after Warner Bros. Discovery completed its merger.