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CNN+ strategy comes into focus amid an increasingly crowded subscription streaming landscape

The news: CNN+ will make its appearance at the end of March with an introductory price of $2.99 a month–a rate that early members will keep as long as they maintain an active account–and $5.99 a month after the promotion ends, per the Los Angeles Times.

  • That post-promo cost is the same as Fox News' Fox Nation streaming subscription.
  • A lower-cost, ad-supported version of CNN+ is expected to be offered in the future, as well as a bundle with HBO Max.

More on this: CNN+ will provide 8 to 12 hours of daily original programming, both live and on-demand. Shows will be led by newly hired high-profile journalists such as former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, former MSNBC host Kasie Hunt, and ex-NPR star Audie Cornish.

  • The streamer’s news content will be distinct from the cable channels, which in addition to the flagship CNN include CNN International, HLN, and CNN en Espanol. CNN+'s ability to deliver a live feed of its linear network to standalone streaming subscribers is also apparently limited due to pay-TV provider agreements.
  • The service won’t have its own app. Instead, it will be available as a standalone purchase or as an optional add-on cost for pay-TV users with CNN access, from within the same CNN app.
  • Chris Licht, currently executive producer of "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert, was picked by David Zaslav, the Discovery CEO who will head the soon-to-be merged Warner Bros. Discovery, to replace ex-CNN president Jeff Zucker on Monday.

Zoom out: 73.1% of US internet users consume subscription OTT video, per our forecast, the greatest percentage of any region projected—but China has three times as many streaming subscription users overall. And most growth is happening outside of North America, with the Middle East and Africa growing at 22.4%.

CNN plus or minus? Zucker, who was also thought to be close to Zaslav, was a strong supporter of CNN and CNN+. It’s unknown how committed Licht will be to the strategy laid out by Zucker.

  • With Warner Bros. Discovery expected to carry $58 billion in debt, it’s hard to say how CNN can contribute to cuts that will likely come. CNN made $1.7 billion in income in 2020, about one-fourth of HBOs $6.8 billion haul, per The New Yorker.
  • WarnerMedia is in a tricky spot: It does not want to alienate its linear TV network partners that are cannibalizing their audiences, but as cord-cutting continues, it didn’t have the option of not attempting to grow its streaming presence.

Will subscribers pony up? With an increasing number of subscriptions to manage, there’s a question of how much consumers are willing to pay in total to stream video content. Netflix recently hiked its plans, making them more expensive than HBO Max’s ad-free tier or bundling Disney+, Hulu (ad-supported), and ESPN+.

Zaslav recently announced that the combined Warner Bros. Discovery could soon offer a free ad-supported tier for its unified streaming service—cementing the idea that a greater percentage of revenue growth may come from advertising, not incremental subscriptions, in the near future.

Content competition: Given the price sensitivity of the average consumer, streamers are fighting over content rights in an effort to avoid churn.

  • The rights to broadcast the India Premier League (IPL) cricket games over the next five years are up for grabs, and giants like Disney and Amazon are getting ready to bid over $5.3 billion to secure them.
  • Peacock is in talks to obtain broadcasting rights to stream some Major League Baseball (MLB) games.
  • And HBO Max is getting into live sports as part of a new soccer deal, it was just announced.