CNN+ is here: What to expect from the subscription news streamer
“We’re going to be the only global video news subscription company,” CNN Chief Digital Officer and CNN+ Director Andrew Morse said in an interview.
The three major broadcast news divisions – ABC, NBC and CBS – have free and ad-supported streaming channels, but have far less content. MSNBC is shifting some of its programming to NBCUniversal’s subscription service Peacock, while Fox News is selling a streamer that focuses on entertainment and right-wing talk, not news.
CNN+ is separate from all of those. Still, the service faces headwinds, including impending management changes and outward skepticism about the service’s prospects.
“News is additive. It’s a habit. But it’s a tough sell for a standalone subscription service,” said Julia Alexander, senior strategic analyst for Parrot Analytics, a firm that advises media companies.
Ultimately, CNN+ can be bundled. But at launch, it’s a standalone product priced at $5.99 per month. People who sign up in the first four weeks directly through CNN will get “50% off the monthly plan — for life — as long as they remain subscribers,” the company says.
Hit CNN original series like “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which previously aired elsewhere, will now be available exclusively on the CNN+ library. Acclaimed documentaries and specials will also be streamed.
Eight daily newscasts and interview shows will go live throughout the day on weekdays and then be available on demand.
Nearly a dozen new weekly programs like “The Don Lemon Show” and “Jake Tapper’s Book Club” will also air throughout the week.
A dedicated team will cover breaking news and produce special reports with many of the same correspondents and analysts who appear on CNN.
But nothing will change in the current CNN experience on television or on CNN Digital. Anchors will continue to lead their existing shows, available on cable and satellite, and journalists will continue to post on CNN.com, the free, ad-supported website.
CNN+ is something different, partly out of necessity and partly out of creativity.
WarnerMedia’s lucrative, long-term agreements with cable and satellite distributors mean that CNN+ cannot simulcast existing CNN/US, CNN International or CNN en Español channels.
But a growing number of American households don’t have cable anyway, creating a major threat to the future of big media companies. CNN executives and producers then asked themselves: what would an all-new video news service look like in 2022, freed from all the constraints of traditional television?
The answers are evident throughout CNN+’s daily schedule, starting with “Five Things,” five of the top morning headlines hosted by Kate Bolduan at 7 a.m. Eastern.
“Because we’re not doing a fixed linear feed, we can do a show that gets people up to speed in the morning,” said Alex MacCallum, CNN’s chief product officer and CNN+ general manager. “If it were to be five minutes one day, 15 minutes the next, we have the flexibility to be able to make shows as long or as short as needed to meet customer needs.”
“Go There” at 8:00 a.m. EST will feature detailed coverage from correspondents on the ground, including the war zone in Ukraine. The daily program will continue with “The Big Picture with Sara Sidner” at 9 a.m., “Reliable Sources Daily” at 11 a.m., “The Source with Kasie Hunt” at 4 p.m., “The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo” at 5 p.m., “Qui parle à Chris Wallace? at 6:00 p.m. and “The Newscast with Wolf Blitzer” at 7:30 p.m. (Full disclosure: I am the host of “Reliable Sources Daily”.)
CNN executives expect many people to watch these shows on-demand, not live, prompting a different way of thinking about news coverage.
Weekly programs will feature established CNN stars like Anderson Cooper and new additions like Audie Cornish and Scott Galloway.
The streaming service‘s interactive component, Interview Club, will also be a regular source of content.
“We want to give subscribers a space to ask the questions they have,” CNN chief technology officer Robyn Peterson said in an interview.
Interview Club will allow subscribers to submit questions that moderators will share with expert guests. It was “built from scratch, from whiteboard to product,” Peterson said.
An immense amount of work has taken place behind the scenes to create a streaming platform that can eventually expand worldwide.
The ultimate question is: how many people will pay for video news?
CNN launches a marketing blitz to publicize the product. Hosts like Wallace are also making the rounds on other channels.
Alexander said Discovery could take one of two different paths to integrate all brands. “The first is a large-scale set of games,” she said, combining HBO Max, Discovery+, and CNN+ much like “Disney did with its three services, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. “.
The second, more likely path, she said, is “all these services merged into one platform.”
That’s beyond the control of CNN+ staffers who have spent the past several weeks rehearsing new shows, tweaking marketing and fixing software bugs. On Tuesday, they will start to see how the public reacts to the new service.
Peterson said CNN+ will be available on a key set of devices at launch – web, mobile and connected TVs – and will “expand to new devices” in the coming months.
Although executives didn’t comment on when CNN+ might be available outside the United States, “CNN is a household name around the world,” Morse said. “Apart from the BBC, there’s really no other global news organization like CNN. So we see a really substantial market opportunity.”