CNN+ struggles to attract viewers two weeks after launch

The news: Just over two weeks since its March 29 launch, the news-oriented streaming service CNN+ is averaging fewer than 10,000 daily viewers, CNBC reports.

How we got here: CNN pushed forward with the streaming service’s rollout despite a crowded market and several leadership shakeups surrounding the recent merger of parent company Warner Media and Discovery.

  • CNN+ is the latest in a long line of streaming services launched over the last few years, but differs from its competitors because of its news-oriented focus. CNN tapped talent like Anderson Cooper and former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace to host shows on the services alongside documentaries from CNN Films.
  • That news personality-driven approach is the hallmark of former CNN president Jeff Zucker, who resigned suddenly in February. Even though CNN+’s subscription-only model (which charges $5.99 a month) was already internally contested at the time, CEO Jason Kilar pressed on with the plan—until he, too, departed the company days before the Warner Bros. Discovery merger.
  • CNN+ isn’t even the only streamer offering news content. NCBUniversal recently began rebroadcasting news shows on Peacock (which offers free, ad-supported access unlike CNN+), and Fox Nation’s right-leaning news coverage helps it reach a specific target audience, much like its network counterpart.

On top of its vague target audience and executive departures, CNN+ is also dealing with distribution hurdles. The service only just struck a deal with Roku on Monday and isn’t available on Android TVs as of this writing.

The big takeaway: For now, at least, it seems news is a secondary priority for consumers when it comes to streaming. The tepid response to CNN+ comes as Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav is reshaping the company post-merger, and he may eventually shift its content over to HBO Max.

  • It’s not like Americans have stopped spending on streaming services either. Consumers have expressed a desire for bundles and fewer streaming options, with 93% saying they either plan to add yet another streaming service or stick to their current lineup, per a recent report from Nielsen. But as more and more streaming services begin to offer free or cheaper ad-supported subscription tiers, CNN+’s subscription-only model is beginning to look outdated.
  • Still, Warner Bros. Discovery might not be able to patch up CNN+ with a post-launch, ad-supported tier. Swirling rumors of low viewership combined with comparisons to Quibi could make it difficult to attract advertisers and would further blur the distinction between the new company’s cable TV news coverage and its streaming product.