CNN’s New Owners Pull All Marketing for Chris Wallace-Led Streaming Service, Fire CFO

CNN’s new owners have pulled the plug on all external marketing for its failing Chris Wallace-led streaming service, according to a new report.

The network’s new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, has also fired its chief financial officer, who oversaw CNN, amid major a shakeup and budget cutbacks.

The new owners at Discovery have replaced CNN’s longtime CFO Brad Ferrer with Neil Chugani, Discovery’s current CFO for streaming and international, according to a new report from Axios.

Sources tell Axios that Chris Cuomo’s coveted timeslot may turn into a “live newscast, instead of personality-driven perspective programming.”

CNN brought in roughly $1 billion in profit last year and sources say Warner Brothers/ Discovery executives are willing to forgo some of that loot as they plan to move the network back to hard news and away from partisan politics.

But that leaves CNN Plus and Chris Wallace holding the bag.

While the new bosses may be fine with losing a little bit of cash to get CNN playing it straight, they do not have that patience for the doomed new streaming service.

CNN executives initially wanted to have 2 million subscribers for the streaming service in the first year and 15-18 million subscribers over four years.

But CNN+ has around 150,000 subscribers so far, falling far short of where they want to be, and with new owners coming in, it is not hard to see why they are making these cuts.

Axios reports:

Discovery executives are frustrated that the service launched.

If CNN held off launching CNN+ until after the merger, it would have been easier to pivot the company’s efforts towards something better aligned with Discovery’s goals.

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Discovery’s experience launching niche subscriptions services, like GolfTV and its Food Network Kitchen App, has informed its strategy to focus on one scaled general entertainment offering around HBO Max, instead of more niche services that have to compete with big apps for subscriber cash.

Warner Bros. Discovery executives see an opportunity to possibly include some CNN+ content on CNN’s app and make that video available for free and supported by ads, according to one source.

Other CNN+ programming could live within HBO Max.

It sees potential in leveraging the already massive reach of CNN.com and CNN’s main app to drive its digital growth long-term, as opposed to another subscription outside of linear TV.

Discovery executives are focused mostly on returning CNN to its journalistic core, a point Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav reiterated in a town hall last week.

That includes less of a focus on primetime perspective programming, and more of a focus on hard, breaking news.

CNN+ features an array of soft news content, which doesn’t align with Discovery’s broader vision for CNN.

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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