What happened to CNN Plus?

  • CNN Plus was a video streaming service and offshoot of CNN’s cable TV news network that was launched on March 29, 2022. The service was ultimately shut down just one month after it was launched.
  • Trouble began for the platform when parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery. The latter was unimpressed with paltry viewer data and, with $55 billion in debt to clear, was not interested in funding CNN+ moving forward.
  • Other contributing factors to CNN Plus’s demise include a lack of compelling content and streaming service market saturation.

Introduction of CNN PlusCNN Plus was a subscription-based streaming service launched by CNN, a prominent news network. It was announced in July 2021 and aimed to provide a platform for CNN’s premium content, including live news, exclusive shows, and on-demand programming. CNN Plus was intended to complement the traditional cable news channel by offering additional content to subscribers via streaming.
Content and FeaturesCNN Plus planned to offer a range of content, including live news coverage, original series, and documentaries. Subscribers could access this content on various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs. The service was designed to cater to viewers looking for in-depth news analysis and exclusive programming beyond what was available on the traditional CNN cable channel.
Competition in the Streaming LandscapeCNN Plus entered a highly competitive streaming market, where several established players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and news competitors like MSNBC and Fox News also had streaming offerings. Differentiating itself and attracting subscribers in this crowded landscape posed a significant challenge for CNN Plus.
Challenges and Operational ChangesCNN Plus faced challenges, including the need to build a subscriber base and develop compelling content that would resonate with viewers. Given the evolving nature of the streaming industry, it was essential for the service to adapt to changing viewer preferences and expectations. CNN Plus needed to navigate these challenges to succeed in a dynamic and competitive market.
Launch Delay and ReevaluationIn December 2021, CNN announced a delay in the launch of CNN Plus, pushing it from early 2022 to a later date. The delay raised questions about the service’s strategy and competitive positioning. During the delay, CNN Plus indicated that it would reassess its approach to content and features to ensure it could effectively compete in the streaming space.

Origin story


CNN Plus (CNN+) was a video streaming service and offshoot of the company’s cable TV news network that was launched on March 29, 2022.

CNN+ was conceived in July 2021 as a 24/7 streaming service that would feature 8-12 hours of live content with archived content, original network series, and a community where viewers could interact with on-air talent.

Despite recruiting a team of notable news anchors, radio hosts, and journalists, CNN+ was shut down just one month after it was launched.

What contributed to the swift demise of CNN+?

WarnerMedia acquisition

On April 8, 2022, CNN parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery to become Warner Bros. Discovery. 

Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide Chris Licht stated that post-merger, a decision was made to “cease operations of CNN+ and focus our investment on CNN’s core news-gathering operations and in further building CNN Digital.” 

Licht also alluded to the fact that customers did not want or need CNN Plus and, most importantly, were not willing to pay for it: “This is not a decision about quality; we appreciate all the work, ambition and creativity that went into building CNN+, an organization with terrific talent and compelling programming. But our customers and CNN will be best served with a simple streaming choice.

The merger also left Discovery with around $55 billion debt executives were keen to repay.

CNN had also planned to spend $1 billion on CNN+ over the next four years, but Discovery was unimpressed with the numbers after learning that less than 10,000 viewers were on the platform at any given time.

Lack of must-see content

CNN+ was promoted as a service that complemented CNN’s traditional cable TV news network.

As a result, the platform did not feature a live feed of CNN, which meant viewers could not access breaking news stories.

This was a major drawback of CNN+ since consumers expect to be able to watch the news as it happens – irrespective of which platform they are using.

While CNN+ had an extensive library of content, none of it was especially compelling and many shows could be found elsewhere.

Content such as Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and some of the best Larry King interviews, it was argued, could easily exist on CNN’s main website.

Market saturation

Lacking any sort of buzz, the CNN+ platform was also released in a market many believed was reaching saturation point.

Two days before it was abruptly shut down, Netflix reported that it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the previous quarter – the first time it had lost subscribers in over ten years. 

While negative market sentiment was not the principal cause of the platform’s demise, it no doubt served as a warning for other media companies looking to join the increasingly crowded, post-COVID-19 streaming market.


On April 21, 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery announced the streaming service would be shut down by the end of the month. 

Incoming network president Chris Licht said that “While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN.

Key Highlights

  • CNN Plus (CNN+) was a video streaming service and offshoot of CNN’s cable TV news network launched on March 29, 2022, with the vision of becoming a 24/7 streaming service offering live content, archived content, original network series, and viewer interaction with on-air talent.
  • Trouble began for CNN+ when parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery on April 8, 2022, forming Warner Bros. Discovery. Discovery, facing around $55 billion in debt, was not interested in funding CNN+ as it was unimpressed with the platform’s paltry viewer data.
  • The decision to cease operations of CNN+ was announced by Chris Licht, Chairman, and CEO of CNN Worldwide. He emphasized the focus on investing in CNN’s core news-gathering operations and further building CNN Digital, as customers did not want or need CNN+ and were not willing to pay for it.
  • CNN+ lacked must-see content since it did not feature a live feed of CNN, preventing viewers from accessing breaking news stories. The platform’s extensive library of content was not particularly compelling, with many shows available elsewhere.
  • Market saturation was another contributing factor to CNN Plus’s swift demise. The platform’s release occurred in a crowded streaming market, and negative market sentiment was further highlighted by Netflix reporting a loss of 200,000 subscribers in the previous quarter.
  • On April 21, 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery announced the shutdown of CNN+ by the end of the month. Incoming network president Chris Licht expressed that the decision, though difficult, was for the long-term success of CNN.
  • CNN+ faced challenges from its inception, leading to its shutdown within just one month after launch. The platform’s inability to stand out in a crowded streaming market and the lack of compelling content contributed to its downfall. With Discovery’s debt concerns and minimal viewer engagement, the future for CNN+ was cut short after a brief existence.

Read Also: Netflix Business Model.

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