OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The streaming service for CNN, known as CNN+, has been scrapped after less than a month and insiders are breaking their silence on the doomed platform.
“I defy you to find any reasonable person who ever believed that viewers would pay extra money for the dregs of CNN when it was competing for their wallets with Netflix and Disney Plus,” a former CNN producer said to Fox News. “Do you want to watch ‘The Mandalorian’ or extra Brian Stelter?”
The reference to “The Mandalorian” is a nod to the Disney+ streaming service.
“There should be consequences for the CNN executives who rammed the launch through despite Discovery clearly telegraphing their skepticism,” they said. “Everything should have been paused the day Jeff Zucker was fired because no one else at that level ever thought CNN+ could work.”
Another insider did not criticize the content but the decision to announce the streaming service after the merger with Discovery was announced.
“I didn’t get this whole thing from day one,” the insider said. “I’m not commenting on the content here. I mean – the basic product itself. I didn’t get why the massive money was spent after a merger had been announced. It was like wheee! AT&T gave us the money, let’s burn it. I don’t understand it.”
“No one involved ever had an answer on that,” the person said. “It was always – Kilar wants it.”
CNN host Brian Stelter said it was too soon to know if CNN+ was a success or failure.
“It’s too early to know if this product, if this service, was a success or a failure,” he said on his CNN+ show “Reliable Sources Daily” on Friday.
“You’ve got all the haters today saying this thing was a failure. I don’t know if we can even ever assess that because it just simply didn’t have enough time because of the management’s change in direction,” the host said.
"It's too early to know if this product, if this service was a success or a failure," Stelter desperately tried to rationalize the implosion of CNN+. And he chided the "haters." pic.twitter.com/vCFR3Q7dT4
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) April 22, 2022
Stelter, one of several CNN hosts who also hosted a show on the short-lived platform, has dismissed CNN+ failing due to a “crazy clash of strategies,” as CNN president Jeff Zucker and former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar clearly had a different vision from the post-merger regime of Warner Bros. Discovery executives, who want the company’s streaming assets to be housed in one place.
CNN+ was largely the brainchild of Zucker, who was forced to resign earlier this year, prior to CNN parent company WarnerMedia’s long-planned merger with Discovery. The failed service included liberal-leaning content long embraced by Zucker, as well as culture and hard news shows. Kilar, who is believed to be the person responsible for pushing Zucker out in February, also left the company following the completion of the merger.
Zucker and Kilar were known to butt heads but appeared aligned on the need for CNN+, which quickly struggled to attract viewers.
“From the POV of the leadership team that launched CNN+, one of the world’s top news brands had to start a subscription business to secure its future. It was an expensive but necessary bet – and had to be made regardless of merger timing,” he said.
The former producer was not the only critic of the CNN+ service.
“Who knew that America wasn’t clamoring for more Rex Chapman and more woke analytics from Jemele Hill? And that there wasn’t a great demand for more Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper or Brian Stelter? That Americans weren’t saying, ‘Hey, CNN we’ve chosen not to watch your programing when it’s free, maybe what [you] need to do is charge people directly,'” Clay Travis said mockingly on “Outkick the Show.”
Nicholas Fondacaro, the founder of NewsBusters, said he believes that Stelter is just simping for his bosses.
“Stelter’s been touting sources as claiming CNN+’s collapse merely equated to clashing strategies between the new and previous leadership. But that really just shows Stelter knows who to talk to get the answers he wants to hear,” he said.
“He’s taking the idealistic company man approach by talking about how great CNN+ could have been if given the time, but he’s not showing what the numbers are. We’ve all seen the reports about 10,000 daily users and an anemic subscriber base that they tried to bolster upon launch with a 50 percent off sale,” he said. “All told, their lineup of shows wasn’t that great. You had, among others, a talk show with Don Lemon, one of their lower-rated hosts. Add in Stelter with a daily extension of his poorly performing Sunday show, and it’s not appetizing.”