If there was any doubt that the streaming wars are going to be a brutal conflict, the recently merged super-corp. Warner Bros. Discovery has reportedly decided to shut down the CNN+ streaming service barely a month after it launched. This comes from Variety, which stops just short of saying that this decision was made out of spite by new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, but it certainly sounds like it wasn’t not made out of spite.
This all, unsurprisingly, has a lot to do with the complicated web of WarnerMedia and Discovery’s myriad streaming services, so let’s unpack that a bit: AT&T owned CNN and WarnerMedia, with the former launching CNN+ in March and the latter running HBO Max for a few years now. AT&T has since spun WarnerMedia and CNN into a separate company along with Discovery, which has the Discovery+ streaming service that covers similar non-fiction territory as CNN+. Warner Bros. Discovery announced in March that HBO Max and Discovery Plus would be combined at some point, which is a perfectly sane idea, but it left CNN+ kind of floundering out in the void.
That may or may not have been by design, with Variety saying that new Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was “annoyed” by former WarnerMedia boss Jason Kilar’s decision to launch CNN+ right before the companies merged, so it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where WBD consciously pulled the plug before the service had a chance to really find its footing because Zaslav didn’t want it competing with whatever HBO Max becomes.
The official stance, according to a meeting that Variety says happened earlier today, was not that “the quality of the product” was a problem but that “CNN+ did not dovetail with the corporation’s strategy” (a month after it launched). Chris Licht, new CNN CEO (after Jeff Zucker left earlier this year), did tell the service’s employees that “it is not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you,” though, which is nice. CNN+ employees will apparently still be paid for the next 90 days and will have “opportunities to explore other positions around the company.”
As for the famous news people who had shows on CNN+, Variety says that a lot of them had deals that were not explicitly contingent on working with CNN+, so their projects could live on elsewhere. So the people who will lose their jobs get an assurance that this isn’t their fault, and everyone else will probably get to keep their show going somewhere else. Hooray!
Also, to save you from having to Google it: Yes, Quibi last several months longer than CNN+ did. CNN+ will shut down on April 30, so get your news in now while you can.