CNN’s streaming service, aptly dubbed CNN+, is reportedly giving Quibi a run for its money in the competition to become the biggest catastrophe of the streaming era.
According to CNBC, it’s been two weeks, and only 10,000 people are watching CNN+ daily. The service launched on March 29 for $6/month, or $60/year if paid upfront. While official subscriber numbers aren’t public yet, CNN’s cable channel averages 773,000 total viewers a day leaving a lot of room for improvement.
“We continue to be happy with the launch and its progress after only two weeks,” a CNN spokesperson told CNBC.
The numbers aren’t exactly encouraging, considering CNN brought on exclusive hosts to try and reel in watchers, including Chris Wallace from Fox News (because nothing sells better than both sides-ism) and Kasie Hunt from NBC News. Despite the library of exclusive documentaries and rights to shows like the late Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, there’s little incentive for a person to subscribe to CNN+ when most everything is already available through cable. CNN still lets you stream on-demand content through cable-over-internet apps like YouTube TV, though it’s more limited.
Part of the slow user growth might be because the app isn’t yet available on all TV platforms. (It certainly can’t be because CNN+ isn’t advertised because I’ve been hit with ads about the app’s existence across all social media.) Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV users can find it in the respective app stores, but Google TV and Android TV users haven’t been able to access it.
Of course, you can access CNN+ from any smartphone or tablet and through the web browser. But a quick trip to the landing page for CNN+ might offer a little anecdote into why this streaming service isn’t catching on. Immediately, I’m hit with news about today’s tragedy in New York City, followed by a row of special reports going deeper into what happened, with photos emblazoned all over even as the news is still developing. People are in news in overload enough as it is, adding another subscription fee just to hunt through CNN’s more docu-style content isn’t a particularly compelling pitch.
The numbers could change if CNN changed directions once the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger is figured out. It would make more sense to consolidate its content into what is likely to become a behemoth streaming app like Disney+ and its partners. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO, David Zaslav, hasn’t publicly commented on CNN+’s future, though there was mention of waiting to see how the app performs.
It’s also interesting to note that Ex-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar went ahead with the launch of CNN+ despite the impending merger with Discovery. Kilar left the company last week, but not before telling CNBC that the app was “ahead of my expectations in terms of where the subscribers are, the engagement, the receptiveness that we’re getting.”
Even if you fancy yourself a cable news fiend, you might think twice before paying the annual fee for a year’s worth of the CNN app. The merger is likely to shift some things around, and if CNN+’s numbers remain low, it makes sense all that exclusive content would find itself wrapped up in whatever Warner Bros. Discovery app comes through.