Warner Bros. Discovery decided to unplug CNN+ less than a month after the pricey streaming service launched, sparking widespread ridicule and confusion among critics and insiders, but a CNN+ host insisted it might have been a hit.
“I challenge you to find a reasonable person who ever believed viewers would pay extra money for CNN’s dregs as it competed for their wallets with Netflix and Disney Plus,” a former producer said. CNN to Fox News Digital. “Do you want to watch ‘The Mandalorian’ or extra Brian Stelter?”
Most viewers consider Warner Bros. Discovery shut down CNN+ less than a month after the reportedly $300 million service launched as a disaster, but CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter isn’t so sure.
“It’s too early to tell if this product, if this service, has been a success or a failure,” Stelter said in Friday’s edition of “Reliable Sources Daily” on the soon-to-be-shutdown platform.
“You’ve got all the haters today saying this thing was a failure. I don’t know if we’ll ever even be able to assess this because he just didn’t have enough time because of the management change. management,” he said.
Stelter, one of several CNN hosts who also hosted a show on the short-lived platform, dismissed CNN+’s failure as a “crazy clash of strategies,” as CNN President Jeff Zucker, and former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, clearly had a different take on the post-merger regime of Warner Bros. executives. Discovery, who want the company’s streaming assets to be housed in one place.
CNN+ was largely the brainchild of Zucker, who was forced to step down earlier this year, ahead of CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia’s long-planned merger with Discovery. The failing service included liberal-leaning content long embraced by Zucker, as well as shows on culture and hard news. Kilar, who would be the person responsible for expelling Zucker in February, also left the company after the merger was finalized.
Zucker and Kilar were known to butt heads but seemed aligned with the need for CNN+, which quickly struggled to attract viewers.
CNBC reported that only 10,000 people used the service daily for two weeks, and Axios reported earlier this week that only 150,000 people signed up in total. However, Stelter, considered a Zucker loyalist, wrote an article titled “Conflict Strategies Doomed CNN+ Amid Corporate Merger,” which made no mention of the service’s shockingly low subscriber totals.
“From the perspective of the leadership team that launched CNN+, one of the world’s biggest news brands had to launch a subscription business to secure its future. It was an expensive but necessary gamble – and had to be made regardless of when the merger took place,” Stelter wrote, adding that his new bosses blamed the Zucker regime for moving forward despite the impending merger.
The former CNN producer believes someone must be held accountable for the debacle as hundreds of employees will be laid off, but with six months of severance, if they don’t find new roles in the company. business.
“There should be consequences for CNN executives who rushed the launch despite Discovery clearly telegraphing their skepticism,” the former CNN producer said. “Everything should have been put on hold the day Jeff Zucker was fired because no one else at this level ever thought CNN+ could work.”
While Stelter claims it may never be clear if the venture was successful, others believe it was doomed. News of the service’s impending shutdown dominated social media on Thursday, with CNN critics making every joke imaginable about the failed project. Some reporters from other outlets criticized people making flippant remarks about staff losing their jobs.
Outkick founder Clay Travis is among the critics who have mocked CNN+’s content offerings.
“Who knew America didn’t want more Rex Chapman and more enlightened Jemele Hill analysis?” 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 chose not to watch your shows when they’re free, maybe [you] have to charge people directly,” Travis said sarcastically on “Outkick the Show.”
People inside CNN’s posh Hudson Yards headquarters even wondered why CNN+ existed in the first place.
A CNN insider praised the service’s technical and content aspects, but was troubled by the massive investment after the Discovery-Warner Media merger was announced last year.
“I didn’t have it all figured out from day one,” the insider told Fox News Digital. “I’m not commenting on the content here. I mean – the base product itself. I did not understand why massive money was spent after a merger announcement. It was like phew! AT&T gave us the money, let’s burn it. I don’t understand it.
The insider said they weren’t alone in this sentiment within the company and that staff members were never made aware of why former management insisted on the service being launched. a few days before the new management takes over.
“No one involved ever got an answer about it,” they said. “It’s always been – Kilar wants it.”
NewsBusters deputy editor Nicholas Fondacaro believes Stelter is merely announcing the service’s closure, which comes after a blazing marketing campaign and the hiring of names such as Chris Wallace, Kasie Hunt, Audie Cornish and Eva Longoria.
“Stelter touted sources saying CNN+’s collapse simply amounted to conflicting strategies between new and old management. But it really shows that Stelter knows who to talk to to get the answers he wants to hear,” Fondacaro told Fox News Digital.
“He takes the businessman’s idealistic approach to talking about how good CNN+ would have been if given the time, but he doesn’t show what the numbers are. We’ve all seen the reports of 10,000 daily users and an anemic subscriber base that they tried to bolster at launch with a 50% sale,” Fondacaro added. “All in all, their show lineup wasn’t that great. Among other things, you had a talk show with Don Lemon, one of their lowest-rated hosts. Add Stelter with a daily extension of his poorly performing Sunday show, and it’s not appetizing.
Stelter has long been accused of serving as a quasi-mouthpiece for CNN, and Radar Online suggested earlier this year that he was serving as Zucker’s attack dog. Last August, he was pressed by “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert about CNN’s handling of the Chris Cuomo saga involving his brother Andrew’s sexual harassment scandal.
Stelter defended the network and Cuomo’s conduct during the trade as Colbert pointed out the “strange rules clash” at play.
Colbert’s executive producer at the time was Licht, CNN’s new chief who informed staffers that CNN+ would shut down.
Meghan McCain also disagrees with Stelter and called CNN+ a “predictable disaster” in a scathing Daily Mail column.
“Why would anyone at CNN believe that American audiences would pay extra for content from a brand that is already struggling to attract audiences? Nielsen, the service that tracks television ratings, said found that CNN’s total viewership in February 2022 was down nearly 70% from the prior year,” McCain wrote.
CNN+ will cease operations on April 30.
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