Can CNN’s Hiring Spree Get People to Pay for Streaming News?

A few months ago, CNN’s upcoming streaming channel was considered a bit more of a curiosity in the television news business: just another cable dinosaur trying to make an uneasy transition to the digital future.

In fact, the launch of CNN +, which is expected to go live by the end of March, was like a late arrival at a subscription-based streaming party, more than three years after Fox News launched Fox Nation.

Then the recruitment started.

In December, Fox News’ most decorated news anchor Chris Wallace said he was leaving his 18-year-old network home for CNN +. Next came Audi Cornish, the popular co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR, who said in January that she was leaving public radio to host a weekly streaming show.

Alison Roman, Instagram star and author of the popular cooking newsletter, will get her own cooking show. Eva Longoria will travel to Mexico for a culinary travelogue documentary series. Rex Chapman, a sports podcaster and former basketball player who also signed with more than a million Twitter followers.

Leading names represent a level of talent that was previously reluctant to commit to a news channel’s streaming service, especially the untested service. Agents and producers have taken notice, relying more on bosses than general political talk, for the big paychecks on offer, for the possibility of a news-based streamer with a range of non-fiction programming.

“We want a service that has a bigger hole and is wider than today’s gloomy news,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in an interview.

It’s gambling that CNN + could entice new viewers – and bring back some old ones. CNN’s traditional broadcast viewership has dropped significantly compared to a year ago, thanks to the post-Trump recession and declining audience interest, and the network recently fired its top-rated anchor, Chris Cuomo, amid an ethics scandal.

Mr. Zucker turned to honorable tactics during his days as executive producer of NBC’s “Today” show in the 1990s, combining hard news with a heavy dose of lifestyle coverage and tips on how to bake a pear shoe. In marketing materials, CNN + urges viewers to “have coffee” while flipping through shows promoted as “Never Finicky” and “Silver Lining Beyond Today’s Hardest Headlines”.

It’s an open question if CNN + could actually take the interest – and monthly payments – of viewers overwhelmed by streaming options. Heavyweight services like Netflix and Hulu have struggled to find success with shows that disagree on current events. A Netflix executive acknowledged in 2019 that local programming was a “challenge” when it came to on-demand, watch-at-your-pon-pace streamers.

CNN and Fox News are the two main news networks that bet viewers will pay an additional monthly fee for their digital content.

Fox News launched Fox Nation, a subscription-only streaming service in November 2018. Like CNN +, it features a mix of shows hosted by familiar hosts (“Tucker Carlson Today” and Brian Kilmade’s history program, “What Made America Great”). With the resurgence of the police show “Cops” and a new program hosted by Pierce Morgan, with programming outside the parent network.

However, paid services such as Fox Nation (6 per month) and CNN + (which has not disclosed its price) pose a greater barrier to access to TV news content, which is available elsewhere for free. Fox Nation has not disclosed the number of its subscribers, making it difficult to gauge its success, although Lachlan Murdoch, Fox Corporation’s executive chairman, has called on investors to provide the service.

NBC, ABC and CBS are adopting a different strategy: free streaming news platforms that are supported by paid advertising. Their digital options focus primarily on news, not lifestyle programming, and networks have recently taken more aggressive steps to expand programming on offer.

On Monday, CBS rebranded its platform as the CBS News Streaming Network and announced a new show inspired by the network’s history, including an event hosted by anchor Norah O’Donnell with “The 2022 Race on the Classic Edward R. Muro Interview Series.”

The Choice from MSNBC, a channel on NBC’s Peacock streaming application, launched in 2020. Its hosts are Mehdi Hassan, Zarlina Maxwell and, later this year, former adviser to President Biden Simon D. Sanders included. (NBC News also has a separate digital offering for hard news and lifestyle coverage.)

For news executives, finding a winning formula in a streaming game is now an immediate priority.

Streaming has replaced cable as the main home delivery system for entertainment, often on the strength of addictive series such as the “squid game”. For a while, however, the old-fashioned cable news continued, with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News attracting a record audience in recent years. In case of crisis – epidemic, civil unrest, presidential election, Capitol riots – spectators are still in the group.

Former President Donald J. News ratings have been steadily declining since Trump stepped down, news-dived and cable subscriptions – an estimated four million households gave up their paid TV subscriptions last year, according to research firm Moffat Nathanson.

Fox Nation and CNN + both rely on a business model based on paid subscriptions, hence the efforts of both to generate a wide variety of programming.

“Every month the subscriber has to find only one thing they want,” Mr. Zucker said in an interview. “We don’t need subscribers to be interested in everything we offer, but they need to be interested in something.”

Mr. Zucker said CNN + was targeting three buckets of potential subscribers. It wants to entice loyal CNN viewers to pay for streaming programs featuring hosts familiar with the cable channel: Anderson Cooper will have two, including a parent; Fareed Zakaria is managing the show investigating historical events; And Jack Tapper will host the “Jack Tappers Book Club”, in which he will visit the authors.

Other subscribers, Mr. There are news and documentary fans who want more nonfiction television, as well as young people who don’t pay for cable, Zucker said.

CNN, however, is not ignoring the needs of its flagship cable network, which ranked third behind Fox News and MSNBC in total audience.

Mr. Zucker recently contacted representatives of star CBS news anchor Gail King on CNN about the possibility of taking over the job at 9pm on Saturday, two people familiar with the approach said. Mr. CNN for Prime Time Slots. Cuomo was fired in December after he accused his brother, a former cowboy. Andrew M. of New York. Kuomo, to prevent sexual harassment.

CNN + is also expected to include breaking news and political coverage that CNN viewers are accustomed to – a feature that could cause difficulties for the network along the way. CNN commands higher prices from cable distributors, and if CNN + includes more news programming than potentially competing with cable offers, they could boom. For example, Wolf Blitzer, host of “The Situation Room” on CNN at 6 p.m., will also appear on CNN + to anchor a “traditional evening news show with a sleek, modern twist.”

CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, which is Discovery Inc. With a mega-merger looming, it looks ready to take risks. Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer, said the company was making significant financial bets on CNN +, budgeting for an additional 500 employees, including producers, reporters, engineers and programmers. The company is also renting an additional floor of its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

“What we’re building on CNN + is not a side hustle,” Mr. Morse said.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.