CNN, whose brief foray into subscription streaming was snuffed out shortly after the close of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger in April 2022, is officially getting real estate on Max.
A new offering, CNN Max, will be added to the streaming service in what Warner Bros. Discovery called an “open beta” on September 27. It will consist of a 24/7 stream pulled from the news network’s U.S. and international feeds, with a sprinkling of original fare, with user feedback welcomed. For many reasons, some having to do with contracts with pay-TV operators, it won’t be a full-over-the top version of linear CNN, and certain talent and new shows like the new 9 p.m. hour hosted by Kaitlan Collins will not be in the mix.
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WBD CEO David Zaslav hinted at the new venture during the company’s quarterly earnings call several weeks ago, saying news and sports make SVOD platforms “come alive.” He has been a vocal proponent of CNN but the news unit’s operations have also been one of his biggest headaches since the merger’s close. One of his first moves after taking over the combined company was to shut down CNN+, which had been a priority of WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. The service had failed to gain initial traction after costing the company $300 million to create.
Most news in the streaming world is free and ad-supported. The service will be available to all Max packages, but it was unclear if a fee will be added. As with sports networks like ESPN, the challenge news networks face is how best to transition from the legacy model of pay-TV, in which operators pay large sums for the rights to carry the networks, to the direct-to-consumer world.
New shows will include CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta, Rahel Solomon, Amara Walker and Fredricka Whitfield, and CNN Newsroom with Jim Sciutto. Sciutto will also lead breaking news coverage on the platform each afternoon. CNN Max will also feature Amanpour, Anderson Cooper 360, The Lead with Jake Tapper, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer as well as other anchors, correspondents, and contributors.
“CNN Max is differentiated by having 24/7 news at its core from CNN, the leading global news organization, and being available on a scaled streaming service in the U.S., which has a significantly younger and additive audience compared to traditional TV,” JB Perrette, CEO of Global Streaming and Games at WBD, said in a press release. “This provides even more quality choices for Max customers who will be able to easily catch up on what is happening in the world, particularly in moments of breaking news, all within one seamless experience.”
When CNN Max goes live, its brand will replace the CNN Originals hub. In addition to the livestream, the hub will include more than 900 episodes of current and legacy programming, including CNN Originals Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? and The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper along with library fare.
“CNN Max brings the advantages CNN has in global newsgathering, breaking news coverage and top analysis to a new platform and a new audience. CNN was founded by innovating new ways to deliver the news, and through CNN Max more consumers will now be able to find, engage and learn from CNN’s reporting, giving the company multiple ways to build and grow for the future,” CNN Worldwide’s leadership team, Amy Entelis, David Leavy, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling, said in a joint statement.
CNN has made a number of forays into streaming, including an effort in the late 2000s, CNN.com Live, that featured separate anchors covering live events. CNN+, which launched in late March of last year, was its most ambitious effort, a subscription service built on a new talent roster that included Chris Wallace and Kasie Hunt, as well as new shows featuring Cooper, Brian Stelter and Don Lemon. There were plans to ultimately, add CNN+ as a bundle with HBO Max, but it failed to get traction in its initial week, as it did not draw from the network’s linear feed. Just a few weeks after its launch, it was dropped by the new Warner Bros. Discovery team.
Last year, MSNBC folded its streaming channel The Choice from MSNBC into the Peacock hub for premium subscribers. It included on-demand episodes of shows like Morning Joe, The ReidOut, Deadline: White House, The Beat with Ari Melber and All In with Chris Hayes. Peacock added line streams of Morning Joe and CNBC’s Squawk Box to its platform earlier this year.
Fox News has a subscription streaming service Fox Nation, which has included some on demand offerings of the linear cable lineup, including Hannity and The Ingraham Angle, but also original entertainment and lifestyle programming.
Broadcast networks, meanwhile, all have free streaming offerings, including NBC News Now, ABC News Live and CBS News Streaming, that are built on original programming and live events coverage.
— Ted Johnson contributed to this report.
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