CNN+’s Future Is Bleak

By Jessica Lerner 

Less than a month after the launch of CNN+, Warner Bros. Discovery executives are unsure what to do with the subscription streaming service moving forward.

Axios reports officials have halted all external marketing for CNN+ and fired CNN’s long-serving chief financial officer Brad Ferrer. Ferrer has been replaced with Neil Chugani, Discovery’s current CFO for streaming and international.

Part of the uncertainty stems from differing opinions around the success of CNN+, which has amassed roughly 150,000 subscribers so far and reportedly saw fewer than 10,000 people using CNN+ daily during its first two weeks.

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The subscription-based streamer, which charges $5.99 a month or $59.99 annually, launched earlier this month on Roku.

CNN executives feel that new leadership, following the $43-billion Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, is moving rapidly to remove what they perceive as the cable network’s eventual lifeblood. They believe that if the service hadn’t been stifled, it would have grown faster than The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, Axios reports.

With a $1 billion investment, CNN’s original intention was for the service to become profitable in four years. CNN+ has already received around $300 million in funding, with about $100 million going toward marketing, according to Axios.

However, Discovery officials believe that if CNN had waited until after the merger to create CNN+, it would have been easier to redirect the company’s efforts to something more in line with Discovery’s ambitions, per Axios. Warner Bros. Discovery intends to create a unified service around HBO Max in the future, incorporating some CNN+ programming.

For Sara Fischer’s part, the Axios reporter credits “bad timing, limited communications and misaligned incentives for how CNN and Discovery got strategically misaligned on such a massive product rollout” for the lackluster launch of CNN+.

CNN+ was previously reported to be suffering subscription troubles, with the risk of budget cuts, both in terms of investment and, ultimately, employment cuts, according to the news outlet.

Reports swirled that CNN is bracing for layoffs as soon as May due to the “subpar subscription signups for its brand new CNN+ streaming service.” CNN officials responded by rebuking claims that their streaming service’s launch was a failure, but they didn’t rule out the possibility of layoffs in the future.

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