As CNN’s streaming service known as CNN+ flounders, changes are being made at the network’s top levels.
Warner Bros. Discovery has laid off CNN chief financial officer Brad Ferrer, replacing him with Neil Chugani, Discovery’s CFO for streaming and international, according to an Axios report ominously entitled “CNN+ looks doomed.”
The outlet said more high-level layoffs are in store as WarnerMedia reshapes its empire.
Based on five sources it did not name, Axios reported that CNN’s corporate parent has also pulled the plug on marketing CNN+, which has about 150,000 subscribers. Executives had hoped for 2 million subscribers in the service’s first year.
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But the network is also looking at something new: a live news show to fill the 9 p.m. slot once held by disgraced host Chris Cuomo.
Internal data indicates that programming that looks like live TV — Axios specifically mentioned “5 Things with Kate Bolduan” and “Reliable Sources Daily” with Brian Stelter — is what has connected with viewers on CNN+.
Axios reported that within CNN, “executives are frustrated that new leadership is moving quickly to dismantle what they see as an eventual lifeline for the cable network.”
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CNN’s true believers think the pause in marketing CNN+ means it will never achieve what was planned in the days when CNN wanted to invest $1 billion in a four-year plan to make the service profitable.
Although CNN+ recently launched on Roku, which is expected to bring in subscribers, insiders fear that growth will be a blip and not a boom.
Axios reported that Discovery wants one big streaming service, not niche ones, and would have been happier had CNN+ never launched.
The outlet noted that there is a philosophical change as well as a programming one taking place.
“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,” Axios reported.
“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.”
CNN head Jeff Zucker’s resignation in February, a month before the launch of CNN+, likely did not help matters. New head honcho Chris Licht does not take over until May, according to Axios.
The outlet reported that some CNN+ content could endure on CNN’s app, even if the streaming service does not.