The decision puts an abrupt end to an ambitious and aggressive venture that people familiar with the matter say rankled David Zaslav, the new CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, from the start. Zaslav was annoyed by the decision of Jason Kilar, the former CEO of WarnerMedia when it was owned by AT&T, to launch CNN+ just weeks before Discovery was set to take over operations. But he was unable to communicate with WarnerMedia management, owing to legal boundaries surrounding the merger process.
“This decision is in line with WBD’s broader direct-to-consumer strategy,” said Chris Licht, the incoming CEO of CNN, in a statement. “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.” Zaslav has been open in the recent past about his desire to combine all of the company’s streaming-video assets, which also include Discovery+ and HBO Max, under a single umbrella.
Andrew Morse, the CNN executive vice president who oversees the newly-launched streaming-video outlet, as well as CNN’s digital and Spanish-language operations, was told of the decision ahead of time, these people said, and is expected to depart after a period of transition. Alex MacCallum was named to oversee digital, and CNN+ employees will be paid for the next 90 days and be given opportunities to explore other positions around the company.
The decision curtails CNN’s efforts to join the TV-news streaming wars,which are already being fought by NBCUniversal, CBS News, Fox News and ABC News. MSNBC has unveiled plans to roll out more opinion-led shows in a bid to generate more subscriptions for Peacock, its corporate parent’s streaming outlet. Fox News has expanded the purview of Fox Nation, adding true-crime documentaries and even movies to service in a bid to attract not only fans of its cable-news outlet, but also a broader array of potential subscribers CBS News recently overhauled its streaming-video efforts and added new shows led by anchors including Norah O’Donnell and Tony Dokoupil. Both NBC News and ABC News have bet on live news programming, setting up anchors like Tom Llamas and Linsey Davis in early-evening weekday programs.