CNN Plus

CNN Plus is coming — what is it and why do we care?

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CNN Plus launches in the first quarter of 2022. It’s big news for CNN, but is it big news for us?

CNN chief digital officer Andrew Morse shared details on the Strictly Business podcast of what he considers the brand’s biggest launch since the network began in 1980. We have the details thanks to Variety.

What is CNN Plus?

An internal press release is quoted as describing CNN Plus as a venture:

“that complements the core CNN linear networks and digital platforms to serve CNN superfans, news junkies and fans of quality non-fiction programming.”

There are few specifics on programming, but the same source also cites contributions from existing CNN talent as well as entries from the network’s catalog of series and documentaries including past seasons of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.”

In the podcast Morse got more specific, and revealed CNN is looking to hire 450 people in the next 6-9 months to support CNN Plus, which he also said would be looking to experiment in programming formats that blur the line between news and entertainment. Initial deployment is US and Canada, followed by ‘expansion’ over following months.

There’s no talk of likely fees, and the Variety article also talks about parent company takeover deals (the Warner Media / Discovery deal) and how that may well firm up the strategy.

Why is it important?

There may be little immediate concern to we in the UK, but it’s worth further consideration. We’ll explain…

If you so wished, you might split television programming into real-time or non-real time. It’s a blurry distinction, but by real-time we include Sport, Music, Theatre and News. Non-real time encompasses anything prerecorded. This leaves a bit of a gap for live panel shows / interviews and the like, and we’ll call them light entertainment and they can be in either bucket.

BBC Sport

It’s the real-time area the streamers are not (yet) dominating. Netflix has no content in this regard, Amazon has some sport and (in Europe at least) Sky have a lot of sport and news. We’d suggest a typical UK viewer (and above a certain age, whatever that means) may binge boxsets on Netflix, but still switch to broadcast TV for news updates, catching the sport on either Sky or Freeview. Yes, BT and others also feature in this space, but if you want up to date news and weather, you don’t tend to switch to Disney+!

Our point here is the landscape is evolving. CNN+ may never be a brand leader for news in the UK, but we know the BBC (and others) need to evolved to embrace the newer delivery mechanisms. The CNN+ model may well be watched by many organisations, and influence the future of TV News (and other ‘live’ programming) in the future.