For the last six years CNN symbolized everything wrong with the corporate media.
Now the bill came due.
And you won’t believe how the plug just got pulled on CNN.
On March 29 CNN launched CNN+, a streaming service which network executives believed would eventually attract millions of paying customers.
CNN+’s head-scratching business model consisted of believing the fewer than one million viewers who tuned into CNN’s last-place cable news programming for free would now fork over money to pay to watch CNN’s content.
Disgraced former network President Jeff Zucker sunk $300 million into the streaming service with a plan to spend up to one billion dollars on the platform over the next four years.
This turned out to be disastrous.
Zucker was forced out in a sex scandal and WarnerMedia – CNN’s then-parent company – pushed ahead with the launch despite a corporate merger where Discovery would oversee WarnerMedia assets just weeks away from being finalized.
When Discovery CEO David Zaslav saw the early numbers for CNN he was likely horrified.
Fewer than 10,000 users logged on to CNN+ at any given time.
Once the merger with Discovery received full approval, Discovery paused all future spending on CNN+.
That decision meant it was only a matter of time until the axe fell.
Discovery took just days to cancel CNN+.
New network CEO Chris Licht wrote a memo to staff informing them that CNN+ would cease operations on April 30.
“Today Warner Bros. Discovery and CNN are announcing that we have decided to cease operations at CNN+, effective April 30. I want to share my perspective with you before the news breaks,” Licht wrote.
Licht added that all CNN+ employees that lost their jobs would receive benefits for 90 days as they sought other employment at CNN or Warner Bros. Discovery.
Anyone else would receive at least six months of severance pay if they chose to move on if they could not find a new job at CNN within three months.
“But most importantly, we are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for our CNN+ colleagues. As part of the transition plan, all CNN+ employees will continue to be paid and receive benefits for the next 90 days to explore opportunities at CNN, CNN Digital and elsewhere in the Warner Bros. Discovery family. At the end of that period, any departing CNN+ employee will receive a minimum of six-month severance (depending on length of service at CNN),” Licht added.
Licht dropped another hint in his memo that CNN would move away from liberal opinion programming and back to straight news.
“While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN,” Licht wrote. “It allows us to refocus resources on the core products that drive our singular focus: further enhancing CNN’s journalism and its reputation as a global news leader.”
As part of CNN+’s launch Jeff Zucker made a bunch of splashy hires bringing on well-known liberal commentators such as former ESPN host Jemele Hill, former NBA star Rex Chapman and “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace.
But CNN+ ended up the most spectacular failure in media history because Jeff Zucker forgot that few Americans wanted to watch CNN’s liberal opinion programming when it was on TV for free.
Discovery had no time for vanity projects or political opposition programming.
CEO David Zaslav wants actual news on CNN again.
And pulling the plug on CNN+ was a gigantic first step.
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