Nuclear weapons experts have a phrase: “Bouncing the rubble.” It’s what happens when you use more firepower than what’s needed to actually kill a thing. At some point, you’re just blowing up things that already have been blown up. And that’s where we’re at just minutes after Variety broke the news that already was pretty likely — CNN+ is being killed after about a month of life. The New York Times reported that the end date is set for April 30.
CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy confirmed the news in a story … on CNN.
The service officially launched on March 29 (after soft-launching a day earlier) for $6 a month. Actually, it didn’t even cost that much yet, as new subscribers were still within a 50-percent-off window that wasn’t set to end until April 26, which is just another reminder of how quickly it’s come and gone.
The CNN story said that customers “will receive prorated refunds of subscription fees.”
CNN+, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, likely was doomed from the start. While CNN (the network) paved the way for cable TV news (for better or worse), a dedicated streaming play was never put in a position to succeed, for any number of reasons. Start with the oversaturation of news in the first place. Twenty-four hours of content already is too much space to fill in any real coherent manner, leaving us in the mess we’re in today. So getting folks to pay for even more news (or “news,” even) was always going to be a tough sell. (Though the cult of Fox Nation may disagree.)
Then there is/was the content itself. The problem isn’t/wasn’t with the star talent — CNN+ has/had plenty. (We’ll stop with the tense shifting now, but you get the idea.) Brian Stelter. Anderson Cooper. Sara Sidner. Wolf Blitzer. Poppy Harlow. Christiane Amanpour. Sanjay Gupta. All familiar faces on CNN, and you’d be able to pay for even more of them on the streaming side of things. But did you really need a book club from Tapper? Or parenting tips from Cooper? Or, more to the point, did you really need to pay for that sort of thing?
The more interesting question on this front is with the new talent. Chris Wallace finally had enough of Fox News and hung it up there. But he’s still a stellar journalist by any standard, so it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up on CNN proper or just does something else. Same goes for Rex Chapman, and to maybe a lesser extent Scott Galloway, whose No Mercy, No Malice show, while good, really was just an extension of all his other shows on other platforms.
And all of this really comes down to the business side of things. CNN+ was launched while still under the WarnerMedia umbrella, which until April 8 — not even two weeks into the life of CNN+ — had been owned by AT&T. Now it’s been divested and digested and regurgitated into the new “Warner Bros. Discovery” behemoth, with new executives at the helm, on the lines, worrying about navigation, and pretty much any other part of the boat we can use to stretch that metaphor within an inch of its life.
None of this is it the fault of the folks in front of the camera, or directly behind. And who’s to say that it means the death of Interview Club, the one real interesting feature of CNN+ that allowed subscribers to submit questions to hosts and guests. Those questions would be moderated before being answered, in hopes of keeping the feature from becoming the worst parts of a Reddit AMA, but it was something that no one else was really doing on the news side, at least not in this sort of way.
Add all that up, though — and multiply it by the lack of willingness from the incoming executives — and there’s just no denying it. CNN+ had an uphill battle from the start. Where it lands at the bottom remains to be seen.
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