Warner Bros. Discovery ad sales chief Jon Steinlauf touted the company’s sports, streaming and news properties during its second quarter earnings call Thursday morning, with CNN serving as an especially important brand in an election cycle.
“I think the side-by-side with sports will be streaming,” Steinlauf said. “Overall demand may not be up all in when you count everything, but with CNN, we’re heading into an election year, so we know that brings sponsors in different ways for coverage of the election cycle. The advertisers are paying attention to CNN, knowing that the ratings are about to take off as they always do in election cycles.”
Ever since shuttering CNN+ in Spring 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery executives have remained reticent about their streaming strategy for news and sports. However, that silence was broken on the call when the company hinted at how they’re going to integrate both verticals into their Max streaming service.
WBD CEO David Zaslav indicated that the company would reveal more about its streaming plans for news and sports later but did talk about the value of those properties to the company, saying, “News and sports are important differentiators. They’re compelling, and they make these platforms come alive.”
JB Perrette, WBD’s CEO and President of Global Streaming and Games, added that sports and news could be put on a separate tier within Max and offered to subscribers for an additional fee.
CNN has fallen behind the other news networks when it comes to the establishment of a streaming presence. Its cable rivals already have made inroads in the space, with Fox News having subscription content platform Fox Nation, while MSNBC’s content lives within a hub on Peacock (MSNBC on Peacock).
The broadcast news organizations also have a streaming presence. ABC News has ABC News Live, NBC News has a trio of services (breaking news-focused NBC News Now, Today All Day, Dateline 24/7), and CBS News has CBS News Streaming Network, all of which are free and ad-supported.
On the sports side, WBD is a heavy hitter in sports programming as it houses marquee sports leagues like the NBA, MLB, and NHL and airs the popular AEW wrestling matches.
CNN+ was supposed to be CNN’s pathway into the streaming world, but it was shuttered in 2022 by former CNN head Chris Licht who said, “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.”
Some CNN original programming already lives on Max, including Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace and The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper.
In June, a report surfaced that WBD was looking to make CNN programming available to Max users outside the United States. CNN’s distribution agreements with pay-TV providers within the U.S. complicate its efforts to make it available locally, as these providers aren’t open to sharing content they’re paying for with a direct-to-consumer service.