CNN+ shutting down April 30, weeks after launch

Business

(The Hill) — CNN is shutting down its paid streaming service just weeks after it launched, the company announcedThursday. 

In a statement, incoming network president Chris Licht said the service would shut down April 30.

CNN+ launched when its parent was still part of AT&T. It combined with Discovery earlier this month in a new company, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD).

“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,” Licht said in a statement released by the company.

“This decision is in line with WBD’s broader direct-to-consumer strategy. 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,” Licht said in a memo to staff obtained by The Hill.

Licht called an all-hands meeting among CNN+ staffers to discuss the decision, The New York Times reported.

“It’s over. It’s been the shortest most amazing ride #CNNPlus team,” staffer Sara Sidner tweeted.

Licht said some CNN+ content will wind up on other company networks, and the streaming service’s employees will get opportunities to apply for jobs elsewhere inside Warner Bros. Discovery.

We’re still waiting for word on the futures of some of the high profile names who signed on at CNN+, including former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace; Kasie Hunt, formerly of NBC News; and Jemele Hill, who’s known for her work at ESPN.

The head of CNN+, Andrew Morse, is leaving the company.

“Let me be clear: this move is in no way a reflection of the talented and hardworking people who poured their heart and soul into building and flawlessly launching CNN+ in a very short period of time. It also is not a reflection of the quality of the talent and content of CNN+, some of which will migrate to CNN’s programming or some of the company’s other networks,” Licht added.

In a statement on Thursday morning, WarnerMedia Discovery said  CNN+ customers will receive prorated refunds of subscription fees.

“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,” said J.B. Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming for the company.

The shuttering announcement follows several reports of a sluggish start among early subscribers and rumors of upcoming cuts to the project’s budget by WarnerMedia Discovery.

CNN executives had reportedly expected to bring in about two million paid subscribers in its first year, but so far, only about 150,000 have subscribed.

The launch and quick scrapping of CNN+ comes just weeks after WarnerMedia’s sale to Discovery and the ousting of former President Jeff Zucker. Former WarnerMedia head Jason Kilar departed the company soon after the sale and Licht was hired by Discovery executives along with a host of new leaders to oversee the new media conglomerate. 

Earlier this week, CNN played down reports of a stumbling start to its multimillion-dollar investment, saying it was pleased with how the launch has gone and dismissing early reports suggesting the new venture was in trouble as premature.  

“After only three weeks of being available to customers, CNN+ is one of the top news subscription services on the market,” a spokesperson for the network told The Hill on Tuesday. “We remain very happy with CNN+’s performance to date and are proud of what our teams have built.”  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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