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The struggling news streaming service CNN+ appears doomed as bosses at its newly formed parent company slash its marketing budget and consider rolling the infant service into HBO Max, according to a new report.
CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, which formed through a merger earlier this month, has slashed all external marketing spending for the fledgling CNN+ service, Axios reported on Tuesday.
And as WBD moves to cut up to $3 billion in costs by eliminating redundancies in the newly combined company, CNN’s chief financial officer Brad Ferrer has also been ousted and further high-level positions are on the chopping block, the outlet reported.
A spokeswoman for CNN+ did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com on Tuesday evening.
CNN chief financial officer Brad Ferrer (left) has reportedly been ousted in a cost-cutting move as Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav (right) restructures the newly combined company
Streaming service CNN+ appears doomed as bosses at its newly formed parent company slash its marketing budget and consider rolling the infant service into HBO Max
CNN+ launched on March 29, just weeks before the April 8 closing of the $43 billion merger between Discovery and CNN parent company WarnerMedia, which spun out of AT&T.
The hasty launch was seen by some observers as a move to preserve turf and budgets for the streaming service, which CNN had originally planned to turn profitable within four years by investing $1 billion into its growth.
But the early subscriber numbers have been less than promising, with just 150,000 paying customers so far, according to Axios.
Within Discovery, execs were reportedly frustrated that the CNN+ launch wasn’t delayed until the merger closed, which would allow the new company to incorporate the service into its broader streaming strategy.
WBD, led by Discovery CEO David Zaslav, is said to be interested in pursuing a streaming strategy centered on HBO Max, rather than multiple niche subscription services.
Under this plan, some CNN+ shows would be incorporated into the tentpole HBO Max service, while other CNN+ programming could live in CNN’s free app.
Discovery also has its own streamer, Discovery Plus, which will reportedly also be merged into HBO Max. Execs seem to feel consolidation is the right move in the fractured streaming market, and want to offer a premier combined service rather than multiple niche streamers all competing for subscriber dollars.
New CNN boss Chris Licht will not start until May 2, and his plans for the streaming service remain unclear
Discovery executives are also believed to be interested in moving CNN away from opinion programming and back towards its roots as a hard news outlet focused on breaking stories.
To that end, sources tell Axios that WBD is considering a plan to fill fired host Chris Cuomo’s former 9pm weekday slot with a live nightly newscast.
But the ‘hard news’ strategy also bodes ill for CNN+, which is focused primarily on personality-driven soft news content.
Confusion over CNN’s streaming strategy was fed by a lack of communication between WarnerMedia and Discovery executives, who feared regulatory backlash if they coordinated before the merger officially closed.
The dramatic departure of CNN boss Jeff Zucker, who resigned in February after failing to report a romance with his top lieutenant, also did not help matters.
To date, CNN has reportedly spent about $300 million on launching the CNN+ service and made hundreds of hires.
New CNN boss Chris Licht will not start until May 2, and his plans for the streaming service remain unclear.
A promo is seen for CNN+ show ‘Anderson Cooper Full Circle’, a play on the host’s linear show, ‘Anderson Cooper 360’
After being announced as Zucker’s successor, Licht sent a memo to his future staff that teased changes the exec plans to implement once in the big seat.
‘I look forward to getting to know all of you and hearing your candid thoughts and feedback,’ Licht wrote.
‘Our viewers demand the truth from us, and I want to learn the truth from you. Together, we will double-down on what’s working well and quickly eliminate what’s not.’
In the bulletin, Licht said his one directive as incoming president is to ensure that it ‘remains the global leader in news’ as the network’s parent company merges with Discovery – emphasizing the word news in capital letters.
Despite reports that as few as 10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis, a spokesperson for CNN said last week the news network is satisfied with the streaming service.
‘We continue to be happy with the launch and its progress after only two weeks,’ a CNN spokesperson said.
CNN+ launched last month with a base price of $5.99 per month, or $59.99 for an annual subscription. Subscribers who signed up the first four weeks were eligible for half off that monthly price for life, in what CNN called the ‘deal of a lifetime.’
After the promotion ends, the CNN+ monthly base price will be the same as rival Fox News’ established streaming service, Fox Nation. Fox Nation became a streaming service in 2018.
CNN recruited top talent for CNN+, including Fox News veteran Chris Wallace, actress Eva Longoria, and Alison Roman, a former New York Times food writer fired by bosses at the paper for criticizing shamed social media star Chrissy Teigen.
CNN+ features live daily news programming, original series, true crime shows and food and travel docuseries.
‘Nothing like CNN+ exists. There is no news and non-fiction streaming subscription offering available today, and only CNN can create and deliver a global news product with this kind of value to consumers,’ claimed CNN+ boss Andrew Morse in a statement last month.
‘We’re thrilled to offer CNN+’s world class journalism, premium storytelling and Interview Club platform at this attractive price,’ he said.