CNN to launch streaming offering on Max

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CNN is going to give streaming another try.

About a year and half after it shut down its CNN+ streaming service after less than 30 days in operation, the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned cable network will bring a 24-hour streaming offering to Max.

The offering will be called CNN Max and will, unlike CNN+, be available as part of a paid Max subscription.

“CNN Max will leverage CNN’s reporting excellence, global newsgathering, and live programming from CNN U.S., CNN International, and feature original programming built specifically for Max,” the network said in a statement Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

The new service will launch Sept. 27, 2023.

The new service will use a logo that combines the familiar CNN logo with the Max one.

A complete schedule has not been announced, but the announcement indicates it will be resurrecting its “CNN Newsroom” brand to offer original live programming. One edition is slated to feature Jim Acosta, Rahel Solomon, Amara Walker and Fredricka Whitfield, with another helmed by Jim Sciutto.

WBD also said that shows such as “Amanpour,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” will also be featured, though it was not immediately clear if these will be original editions or repeats or simulcasts of the same shows featured on CNN.

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CNN+, which charged a separate subscription fee, featured mostly original programming. CNN’s agreements with many pay TV providers bar them from simulcasting live cable programming elsewhere unless it requires existing cable or satellite subscribers from logging in. In general, delayed repeats or on-demand versions of live programs can be featured on digital platforms. There are also sometimes different rules if the streaming platform is paid and CNN Max could be considered as such given that it’s being bundled with Max.

CNN+ has already gone down in the history books as one of the most spectacular media failures of all time.

The service, which reportedly cost at least $300 million to start, launched March 29, 2022. On April 21, 2023 new owners WBD announced the service would close April 30, 2023. It ended up pulling the plug two days early on April 28, 2023.

Reports indicated that signups for the paid service were falling significantly behind projections. 

The closure reportedly resulted in hundreds of people losing their jobs. It also cost the network to slip below $1 billion in profit for the first time since 2016.

The reasons behind the failure were likely multifaceted. Many industry watchers felt CNN+ was offering a service that few consumers actually wanted. The content available via the service was limited and required customers to commit to a monthly fee (CNN ended up issuing full refunds for all subscription fees consumers paid directly to it).

CNN+ also ended up launching right after Discovery and WarnerMedia finished a massive merger. Pre-merger announcements indicated that the new, combined company wanted to look for cost-savings. Reports also surfaced that Discovery executives slated to take over management of the new venture wanted to hold off on the CNN+ launch in order to work toward a cohesive streaming strategy with its own streamer, which was then known as HBO Max.

CNN is relatively late in the game to launch a national news streamer.

CBS lead the way back in 2014 with CBSN, which is now known as “CBS News.” ABC News Live followed in 2018, though it had limited roots going back to 2003. NBC News Now entered the market in 2019. 

All three of these streamers started relatively low-key, often filling hours with repeats of programs from the network or loops of on-screen headlines as opposed to anchored coverage. 

These offerings operate under the “FAST” model — meaning they are free and advertising-supported television.

Streaming news content, both live, anchored coverage and on-demand programming, has expanded significantly across the entire market since then.

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Among cable outlets, Fox launched Fox Nation in 2018, but this paid service uses a different model and offers mostly on-demand original programming as well as repeats of primetime shows. The Fox network also operates the free Live Now as well as Fox Weather

MSNBC generates its own digital content, but doesn’t run a separate full-fledged streamer. MSNBC previously bundled streaming content under the name “Shift.”

It also integrates with NBCU’s streamer Peacock to provide original live and on-demand programming, including next-day episodes of many of its personality-driven programs as well as carrying “Morning Joe” live for three hours each morning, something that’s unique in the cable news industry.

A previous version of this story featured a composite of the CNN and Max logos. The story has been updated with the official logo.

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