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CNN MINUS

The numbers on CNN+ just didn’t add up

FILE PHOTO: The CNN logo stands outside the venue of the second Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates debate, in the Fox Theater in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
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After roughly $300 million invested, 23 days in operation, and just 10,000 daily viewers, the numbers for CNN+ just didn’t add up. The streaming service’s parent, CNN, has decided to shutter the product; April 30 will be its last day in operation. 

The decision was confirmed by CNN on its website, just three days after reports surfaced that the company had decided to cut CNN+’s marketing budget. During today’s conference call with investors, AT&T, the former parent company of CNN, noted that “declines in earnings at WarnerMedia reflect increased investments incurred in launching CNN+ and expanding new territories at HBO Max.”

Now, under the leadership of David Zaslav, the CEO of the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery, and new CNN unit chief Chris Licht, the network will look to fold existing CNN+ projects into “brands under one streaming service.” In the short term, that means CNN+ shows may live on in the free CNN streaming app.

The story of CNN+ is another lesson for the streaming market in general

The troubles surrounding CNN+ have been compared to the ill-fated launch of Quibi, which had $1.74 billion in funding and lasted just eight months. However, spreading Quibi’s initial investment over its short life still makes it a better deal at roughly $218 million per month versus CNN+’s $300 million price tag for a single month in operation.

Recent earnings results from Netflix and its subscriber decline point to what CNN has learned: It’s no longer enough for a known brand to simply launch a new paid streaming service with a few extras and expect success. The streaming video market is maturing rapidly and, as a result, has become a lot more competitive in a relatively short span of time. Like Quibi, CNN+ may serve as a useful cautionary tale for other would-be streaming entrants moving forward.

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