The Sudden CNN+ Shutdown Isn’t Necessarily a Surprise


The CNN+ shutdown has officially happened. The few subscribers to the service have just days to see what they may or may not miss.

The only real surprise I saw with respect to the well-publicized CNN+ shutdown is just how quickly it came. I expected the powers that be would give it six months before they pulled the plug.

Media Consultant Hank Price reminds us that it took about 10 years for CNN — the cable network launched in 1980 — to truly find success. The Gulf War, he said, put CNN on the map and made it a success.

These days, no one was going to invest in a platform and wait for full decade for it to “find itself” and become profitable. A subscription service can’t sustain itself for that long.

Today’s CNN didn’t help CNN+

Those personality-driven news programs don’t do it for me. If I want to watch news, I’m going to find a newscast. Most likely, that newscast is going to be on a local TV station — even if it’s that station’s network evening news.

Think about the last time there was a big breaking story. How long did it take for the cable news network you rely on to interrupt whatever they were doing other than non-stop live news to report it? Some networks, of course, move faster than others. But some take far too long.

CNN long abandoned the 24-hour news thing it started with.

“CNN leadership began to throw things at the wall — personalities, long-form programming, anything that might work,” Price wrote. CNN, he said, slowly pushed that core brand that finally made it famous “to the back burner.”

By the time it tried to emulate its competition, it found itself between a rock and a hard place. Fox News had one side of the audience and MSNBC had the other.

But what was CNN+ supposed to be?

If I were going to pay for a news streaming service subscription, I’d want news.

No, really: I would expect 24/7 streaming newscasts. No opinion shows, no political programs. No celebrity foolishness or boring talk. And unlike Headline News, no marathons of Forensic Files. (Don’t get me wrong, I love those old shows. But they don’t belong on a service called “Headline News” and certainly not for hours at a time.)

But CNN became a problem, not a help for CNN+. That’s because CNN+ couldn’t offer CNN’s most popular programming because of contracts with cable and satellite providers. Those agreements would have prevented the streamer from running them.

The Street said it best: “You can’t actually watch CNN on CNN+:”

CNN+ was likely doomed no matter what it did, but by launching without a few clear big swings, hit attempts as its core focus, it had even less of a chance. 

Are there other lessons to be learned from the CNN+ shutdown?

USA Today suggested there were at least two. The first of them struck me as amusingly ironic. I saw their report, titled, “Netflix and CNN woes show viewers may have had enough.” On the front page of its app, the abstract of the story contained this line:

Viewers are showing their limits when it comes to paying for multiple services.

The ironic part? When I clicked the headline to read their full take, I received a message alerting me that only subscribers can access the story. It then invited me to subscribe to USA Today for just $50 for the first year.

I chuckled that they’d criticize one media outlet for not recognizing the possibility that consumers feel they’re paying too much…but then require them to pay even more to read their own article.

Hello, pot? This is the kettle calling.

I like USA Today fine, but I don’t subscribe. As with streaming services, I’m at my limit with newspapers and online news sources. So I’ll have to do without the rest of their take on the CNN+ shutdown.

But that sliver of a point is still well-received. Many viewers are already feeling subscription fatigue with various streaming options. They’re less likely to pay for a news service when they can at least get that for free elsewhere. (Or if they’re getting news options on other streaming services they’re already paying for.)

Unless those streaming services can promise news coverage that they can’t get elsewhere, few people are going to sign up.

It would have been interesting to see what CNN+ created if it had the chance. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.