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Inside the chaotic collapse of CNN+

CNN Collapse Axios
Thought Leader: Sara Fischer
April 22, 2022
Source: Axios
Written by: Sara Fischer

The shuttering of CNN+ three weeks after the subscription service launched will be remembered as one of the most chaotic moments of CNN’s 40-year history.

Why it matters: The tea leaves were there for people who had been following the lead up to the merger of CNN’s parent WarnerMedia and Discovery on April 8.

State of play: Discovery executives had been publicly dropping hints that they were unsure of the business plan for CNN+ for weeks leading up to the merger.

In the days following the deal close, CNN+ executives, including CNN+ boss Andrew Morse — who said Thursday he will be leaving the company — had frequent meetings with Licht and “JB” Perrette, a Discovery veteran chosen to lead Warner Bro. Discovery’s streaming efforts.

How we got here: CNN executives first mulled a subscription service in early 2020, before streaming veteran Jason Kilar was hired by AT&T to oversee CNN parent WarnerMedia.

Things took a strange turn when it was announced that WarnerMedia would be spun off to merge with Discovery in May 2021, and that Kilar — caught off guard by the plan — would eventually exit.

Inside Discovery, executives were frustrated that CNN didn’t hold off the launch until after the merger.

The big picture: Zucker’s departure forced Discovery executives to rethink CNN’s role in the larger company.

What’s next: Discovery wants to build one scaled, subscription streaming app based around HBO Max’s branding that includes a cheaper, ad-supported tier.

As for CNN employees, there will be cuts.

Deals are still being negotiated for top talent. Top anchors and show hosts will need to negotiate new roles at the network, either on the TV side or digital, if they wish to say.

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