It took Warner Media 23 days to fold CNN+. Not to reshape or re-imagine it, but to shut it down completely.
Recently appointed CNN president Chris Licht, who has vowed to return the network to its hard-news roots, stated in an employee memo that the decision was “not a reflection of the quality of the talent and content of CNN+.” And yet the problem with CNN is that it now acts as a public relations operation for the cultural and political left rather than an honest news operation. That doesn’t seem like it’s about to change under Licht.
CNN+ and its historic collapse after a $300 million launch is indeed reflective of the CNN roster of talent. CNN+ gave programs to network names like Brian Stelter, Jake Tapper and Don Lemon. All of these hosts (and others) have enough trouble drawing an audience on regular cable broadcasting, let alone streaming.
Over the past six years, CNN has become the network of resistance to Donald Trump and the Republicans, without a single opposing viewpoint for balance. Although former CNN president Jeff Zucker is gone, CNN has not moved on from his “All Trump, All Fox News, all the time” model. Much of the talent that made their names off that model still remain at CNN.
That’s all fine and well if that’s what CNN wants. But the network continues to pretend otherwise. Until it can reconcile those two models, it will never succeed. Brian Stelter still acts as though he is a straight news man when in reality he is little more than a janitor for a largely agenda-driven industry. Jim Acosta made his reputation as a grandstanding anti-Trump White House reporter and was rewarded with a show.
So to disagree with Licht, CNN won’t recoup any kind of value with its audience until it cuts loose personalities like that, as well as its sinking streaming service. CNN’s talent is the problem. And what of Chris Wallace and Kasie Hunt, two big names that CNN landed to all but rub Fox News’s face in the dirt? Wallace might now be out of a job, although I expect his role will be repurposed at CNN. But how? Joker pool cue scene tryouts with Wolf Blitzer?
This might be the beginning of a real sea-change in streaming media. Netflix shares are tanking and its programming will most likely be scaled back. Paramount+ did not have the successful launch it had hoped for. Even the Obamas are jettisoning Spotify for other pastures.
What happened with CNN+ could be an isolated incident. People may just not want to pay for content they don’t already watch for free. It could also also be a signal that CNN has been living off the supposed “strength” of its branding for far too long. Or it could be the fact that there is already an oversaturated market for streaming services. It could also be a combination of all of those things.
But either way, CNN cannot continue down the road it’s on. The problem is that no one in charge seems to realize it.