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

A few months ago, CNN’s upcoming streaming channel was said to be more than just a curiosity in the television news business: just another cable dinosaur trying to make the transition. ease into the digital future.

In fact, the plan to start CNN+, slated to go live in late March, resulted in the subscription-based streaming team arriving late, more than three years after Fox News launched Fox Nation.

Then the whispers began.

In December, Chris Wallace, Fox News’ most popular news anchor, said he was leaving his 18-year network for CNN+. Next up is Audie Cornish, the popular co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR, who said in January that she would be leaving public radio to host a weekly stream.

Alison Roman, Instagram star and author of a popular cooking newsletter, will have her own cooking demonstration. Eva Longoria is going to Mexico to shoot a documentary series about food tourism. Rex Chapman, sports podcaster and former basketball player with over a million followers on Twitter, has also signed up.

The prominent names represent a class of talent that was previously hesitant to commit to a news channel’s streaming service, especially an untested channel. Agents and producers have taken notice of the sky-high salaries offered and the prospect of a news-based streamer with a host of non-fiction shows that rely on more than the main talking heads. usual treatment.

“We really wanted a service that had a broader and more inclusive aperture than just today’s bleak news,” CNN president Jeff Zucker said in an interview.

He’s betting that CNN+ can attract new viewers – and bring back some old ones. CNN’s traditional TV viewership has dropped significantly from a year ago, due to a post-Trump slump and declining audience interest, and the network recently Fires the highest rated person, Chris Cuomo, amid an ethics scandal.

Mr. Zucker is turning to a strategy honed during his days as executive producer on NBC’s “Today” show in the 1990s, combining tough news with a wealth of lifestyle and lifestyle news. Tips on how to bake pears. In marketing materials, CNN+ urged viewers to “drink a coffee” while watching shows billed as “never go wrong” and “silver lining beyond the hardest titles currently available.” now”.

It remains an open question if CNN+ can really capture the interest – and monthly payments – of viewers overwhelmed with streaming options. Heavy services like Netflix and Hulu have struggle to find success with riff programs on current events. A Netflix executive conceded in 2019 themed programming is “a challenge” when it comes to on-demand streamers, follow at your own pace.

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

Fox News introduced 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 Kilmeade’s historical show, “What Made America Great”) along with programming from outside the parent network, including a revival of the police show “Police” and a new show by Organized by Piers Morgan.

However, paid services like Fox Nation ($6 a month) and CNN+ (price hasn’t been disclosed) have higher barriers to entry for TV news content, which is offered for free in the US. other places. Fox Nation has not disclosed its subscriber count, making its success difficult to gauge, although Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman of Fox Corporation, has touted the service to investors.

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

On Monday, CBS rebranded its platform as the CBS News Streaming Network and announced new shows inspired by the network’s history, including one hosted by host Norah O’ Donnell celebrates with “the year 2022 based on the classic Edward R. Murrow interview series”.

The Choice From MSNBC, a channel on NBC’s Peacock streaming app, launches in 2020. Hosts include Mehdi Hasan, Zerlina Maxwell, and starting later this year, Symone D. Sanders, a former adviser to President Biden. (NBC News also has separate digital services for hard news and lifestyle coverage.)

For news executives, figuring out the winning formula in the streaming game is now an urgent priority.

Streaming has replaced cable as the primary home distribution system for entertainment, often the strength of addictive series like “Squid Game.” For a while, however, cable news took hold, with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News attracting record audiences in recent years. During emergencies – pandemics, civil unrest, presidential elections, riots in the Capitol – viewers are constantly watching.

After former President Donald J. Trump left office, news ratings and cable TV subscriptions continued to plummet — an estimated 4 million households have dropped their television subscriptions, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. paid fees last year, according to research firm MoffettNathanson.

Fox Nation and CNN+ are both based on a business model that relies on paid subscriptions, so both strive to produce a wide variety of programming.

“A person who signs up each month only has to find one thing they want,” Mr. Zucker said in the interview. “We don’t need subscribers to be interested in everything we have to offer, but they need to be interested in something.”

Mr. Zucker said CNN+ is targeting three groups of potential subscribers. He’s looking to entice loyal CNN viewers to pay for streaming shows featuring familiar hosts from the cable channel: Anderson Cooper will feature two people, including one on parenting children; Fareed Zakaria is leading a program that examines historical events; and Jake Tapper will host “Jake Tapper’s Book Club,” in which he interviews authors.

Other subscribers, Mr. Zucker said, will be news and documentary fans who want more non-fiction TV programming, as well as young adults who don’t pay for cable TV.

CNN, however, does not ignore the demand of its leading cable network, ranking third last year behind Fox News and MSNBC in total audience.

Mr. Zucker recently reached out to representatives for CBS News host Gayle King about the prospect of her taking on the 9pm weekday slot on CNN, said the two had knowledge. about this method. CNN has not appointed a primetime fixture since Mr. Cuomo was fired in December after it was revealed he assisted with the efforts of his brother, former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, to fight sexual harassment allegations.

CNN+ is also expected to include breaking news and political news that CNN viewers are already familiar with – a feature that could spell trouble for the network. CNN demands a hefty price tag from cable distributors, who might cry if CNN+ includes too many news programs that could potentially compete with the cable offering. For example, Wolf Blitzer, host of “The Situation Room” on CNN at 6 p.m., will also appear on CNN+ to host a “traditional evening news program with a modern, glossy style.” trap”.

CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, which is on the verge of a megamerger with Discovery Inc., seems willing to take the risk. Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer, said the company is making a significant financial bet on CNN+, budgeting for 500 additional employees, including producers, reporters, engineers and programmers. presenter. The company is also renting an additional floor of its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to meet hiring needs.

“What we’re building at CNN+ is not a side hustle,” Mr Morse said. Can CNN’s Hiring Spree Get People Paying for News Streaming?

Fry Electronics Team

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