‘Uniquely Shitty Situation,’ CNN Boss Says as CNN+ Shuts Down Weeks After Rocky Launch

CNN+, the subscription streaming service from cable news giant CNN, is shutting down less than one month after its official launch, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The network’s new CEO Chris Licht called it a “uniquely shitty situation in a meeting with impacted staffers on Thursday afternoon.

The move comes following a merger between WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company, and Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery. The rocky launch of the streamer also came amid internal turmoil that involved CNN president Jeff Zucker’s resignation and the ouster of other Warner executives.

In a memo sent to staffers on Thursday morning and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Licht informed staffers that there would be an “important” all-hands meeting at noon. It is during this meeting, sources told The Daily Beast, that it would be announced that the streaming service would be done within the next week.

Variety and CNN also reported on the upcoming shuttering on Thursday. The last day for the much-hyped streamer will be April 30, according to an additional email Licht sent to staffers and reviewed by The Daily Beast.

“Today Warner Bros. Discovery and CNN are announcing that we have decided to cease operations at CNN+, effective April 30,” he wrote. “I want to share my perspective with you before the news breaks.”

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN,” Licht’s letter continued. “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. I look forward to working with all of you to do just that.”

“In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling,” Discovery’s streaming president JB Perrette said in a statement.

“We have very exciting opportunities ahead in the streaming space and CNN, one of the world’s premier reputational assets, will play an important role there,” he added.

At least one CNN+ staffer, who wished to remain anonymous to speak freely about the situation, told The Daily Beast they only became aware of the news from the media reports. “We haven’t been told a word. Welp,” the employee said.

During an all-hands meeting, Licht told employees that “CNN+ is ceasing” as it “doesn’t fit into the larger streaming strategy” of the company.

“I want to look you in the eye to tell you I’m so proud of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into building a platform in the amount of time you did,” Licht told employees, according to a source within the meeting.

Additionally, Licht confirmed during the meeting that Andrew Morse, the executive vice president who had overseen CNN+, is out at the company. The move comes on the heels of Warner Bros. Discovery replacing CNN CFO Brad Ferrer with Discovery CFO Neil Chugani.

Management also not-so-subtly placed blame for the CNN+ debacle on former CNN boss Jeff Zucker, telling staffers that prior leadership pursued the streaming platform despite it not necessarily being a good strategy. “Some of this was avoidable…[but] prior leadership decided to just keep going” with the planned March launch, a seemingly frustrated Perrette said during the Thursday afternoon call.

Licht’s email also told impacted staffers will receive 90 days of additional pay as they attempt to find a new landing place. Furthermore, anyone unable to get another job at CNN will receive at least six months’ severance. At the same time, it was indicated that the 400+ employees of the soon-to-be-extinct streaming service could compete with each other for roughly 100 open jobs at the network.

“I hope you feel well taken care of,” Licht said during the meeting. At the same time, Licht also told CNN+ staffers that this decision was made before he arrived. (Licht isn’t officially set to take over as CNN CEO until next month.)

“Give us a chance to see if our words match our actions,” he added. “It is not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you.”

“This just felt a little doomed and mismanaged from the start,” said a CNN on-air personality, who added that “dozens” of their close colleagues will be among those scrambling for the open jobs at the network.

“They’re basically making us fight for jobs,” another CNN employee said.

“It’s a very difficult thing for a young journalist to go through,” an additional CNN staffer told The Daily Beast, adding that CNN+ consisted of many employees on the younger side.

“A lot of us are just sad for the young staffers who left other jobs to join something they thought was going to take off,” another staffer told The Daily Beast.

The streaming service’s sudden implosion comes after several weeks of internal leaks and warnings that CNN+ was all but done and on the way out. Last week, CNBC reported that the platform was seriously struggling to attract loyal customers, with the service only averaging 10,000 daily viewers shortly after its launch.

Additionally, the service only pulled in about 150,000 subscribers despite a massive promotional campaign. Finally, even after CNN+ was picked up by television service Roku, the company decided to suspend its marketing around the platform—essentially spelling its doom.

Notably, the collapse of CNN+ comes mere weeks after then-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar—just days before his exit—insisted that the streaming service was exceeding expectations on subscriber growth while calling it the “future of CNN.”

“As a network, we have been through so much over the course of just a few months. The hits just keep on coming,” the CNN personality noted. “And it’s becoming a very stressful and difficult place to work.”


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