CNN just launched its new streaming service and it looks like a dud.
Goodbye, CNN+: Did we ever even know you at all?
Though it just launched, CNN’s streaming service appears to be defunct on arrival. Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns the subsidiary, looks to be in the process of pulling the plug, or at the very least, subjecting CNN+ to a drastic rethink.
Netting a paltry 150,000 subscribers, the underwhelming performance of the subscription service so far has stunned its progenitors, many who still insist the roll-out has been a success. For comparison, The Wall Street Journal has 2.9 million subscribers and The Washington Post has 2.7 million.
One reason for this failure could be timing. Subscription streaming services have been all the rage for some time now. CNN is a bit late to the party.
Disney+, the children’s entertainment giant, was a tremendous hit at its unveiling, though the iconic mouse also certainly took its time about it.
Disney- managing a massive, valuable content library of copyrighted material dating back decades- at least had good reason for waiting so long. For CNN, it is difficult to understand why 2022 is the launch date for CNN+.
CNN, like Blockbuster video before it, may have simply waited much too long to change with the marketplace.
Netflix, 2022’s colossus of the streaming world, once looked extremely unlikely to dominate the entertainment marketplace. For one moment in time, Netflix and Blockbuster were poised on the precipice of a new entertainment model together.
Blockbuster, the established movie rental giant, looked the likely candidate to emerge victorious.
In those days, both companies were experimenting with a new model of mailing DVD rentals to movie aficionados in the know. Blockbuster or Netflix customers could, in those days, fill their online queue with movies they wanted to watch, in order of preference, and the company would mail out their selections as the limited number of physical copies became available.
It was clunky, as first gen and first steps tend to be. At that moment, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” as Robert Frost once wrote. Neither Blockbuster nor Netflix could take both.
Blockbuster took the seemingly safe road, clinging stubbornly to its bricks and mortar until it died of market share starvation; Netflix, “took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
All these years later, Blockbuster is extinct and Netflix sits astride the entertainment marketplace landscape, dominating it as Blockbuster video stores once did.
Blockbuster went the way of the dinosaurs and Netflix wasn’t the asteroid that did it. What did Blockbuster in was a failure to change with technology and the demands of the marketplace.
Much has changed for media consumers since those days. Faster connections and better processing power has allowed the streaming of entertainment content to devices like televisions, computer screens and cell phones.
Actual, physical DVDs are getting as dusty as those old VHS video tapes once did. There are still people who buy them- serious movie consumers, fandoms, collectors; but for the average, idle, Saturday night movie watcher, the convenience, selection, quality and instant availability of streamed content is unbeatable.
There are still people who listen to music on record players; for the other 99%, there are cell phones and other digital devices.
There are other reasons “CNN+ looks doomed,” as Axios puts it.
There is a thing called The Michael Jordan Rule of Business and CNN violated it. Like the Law of Reciprocity or the Law of Gravity, you really only become aware of the existence of this physical law governing the known universe once you break it.
“Republicans Buy Shoes Too,” — Michael Jordan
CNN, like other media networks, don’t exist to report the news; they exist to sell it. That is a major distinction.
With a product to sell, and half the country already unlikely to buy it, CNN+ is competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other choices for a smaller and smaller sliver of the population.
CNN+, before it was even launched, allowed itself to become obsolete in a market saturated by choices, where half of the population has already made another choice.
As a result, outlets that increasingly leaned liberal during the Trump years are already trying to pull the ship back towards the middle, including CNN and the New York Times.
The NYT’s newly anointed editor has promised as much, declaring restoring trust in the media one of his top priorities.
“We don’t know where the political zeitgeist will move over time,” new editor Joe Kahn said. “Rather than chase that, we want to commit and recommit to being independent.”
CNN, perhaps more so than any other media outlet, has suffered in credibility over the past years. Scandal after scandal has rocked the network. There have been internal squabbles and attempts at covering up impropriety, not to mention mis-reporting or missing several major stories.
CNN is itself under new management, but it remains to be seen whether or not the one-time media giant can return to the halcyon, ten-million viewer days of yesteryear.
Nothing- no empire or kingdom, however powerful- lasts forever.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)