Photo CNN
Photo CNN

Cable news behemoth CNN said Monday it is joining the ever-crowded streaming marketplace, adding its CNN Plus service sometime in the first quarter, according to a press release. The new service “complements the core CNN linear networks and digital platforms to serve CNN superfans, news junkies and fans of quality non-fiction programming.”

What can you watch on CNN Plus?

In addition to original programming, CNN Plus will boast a library of non-fiction shows and documentaries, including Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.

CNN says it is coming off its highest rated and most trafficked year ever on both television and digital platforms. The new streaming service "complements the core CNN linear networks and digital platforms to serve CNN superfans, news junkies and fans of quality non-fiction programming," according to the official press release. At launch, CNN Plus will only be available in the U.S.

“CNN invented cable news in 1980, defined online news in 1995 and now is taking an important step in expanding what news can be by launching a direct-to-consumer streaming subscription service in 2022,” said Jeff Zucker, Chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports and President of CNN Worldwide.

CNN is hiring hundreds of people and developing dozens of programs for a subscription streaming service that will launch early next year.

The new venture, called CNN+, was formally announced on Monday morning. It will exist side by side with CNN's existing television networks and will feature eight to twelve hours of live programming a day.

Jeff Zucker, the chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports and president of CNN Worldwide, portrayed CNN+ as the evolution of video news and the start of a new era for the company.

"As the most trusted and recognized name in news, CNN has unrivaled global reach, world class talent and a deep existing library of content including award winning series and films. On top of a television offering that has never been stronger, which remains at the core of what we do today, we will offer consumers a streaming product that grows the reach and scope of the CNN brand in a way that no one else is doing. Nothing like this exists.”

CNN Plus will feature original, live, on demand and interactive programming that is separate and distinct from CNN, CNN International, HLN and CNN en Español linear TV channels.

The company announced that the new service will launch with 8-12 hours of live, daily programming "offering topical deep dives and lifestyle content from some of CNN’s most prominent talent, as well as several new faces."

Photo Film Daily
Photo Film Daily

Along with live content, CNN Plus will house a library of non-fiction shows and films, such as Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, This is Life with Lisa Ling, and United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell.

CNN Plus may experiment with programming that pushes the envelope. When Variety asked Morse if the streamer would put on a satirical news show like Comedy Central's The Daily Show, he said, "I think we’re going to have to try things. We can’t be afraid to take some chances on this platform."

And there will be a complementary community-driven component, that allows fans to interact with anchors and experts in real-time conversations. CNN has previously used this feature in town halls about the COVID pandemic with Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta.

Photo DigiDay
Photo DigiDay
Andrew Morse, CNN Worldwide chief digital officer, will be the executive in charge of CNN Plus.

How much does CNN Plus cost?

In its announcement, CNN did not reveal CNN Plus' price.

Morse told Variety that executives are still determining how much CNN Plus will cost. The new service will not have an ad-supported tier at launch and will be entirely subscription-based.

Taking a look at other niche streaming services in the market, we can hazard an educated guess on CNN Plus' cost. Discovery Plus is $4.99/month, while ESPN Plus is $5.99/month (non-bundled). It seems likely that CNN Plus will be priced in this range.

CNN has about 4,000 employees, making it one of the largest news operations in the world. Morse said CNN is hiring about 450 people for CNN+, from producers to engineers to marketers.

What is CNN Plus app?

CNN will continue to have a single app, where CNN Plus will also reside. The app will include CNN's linear TV feeds that are available only to cable TV subscribers. Those subscribers can "maximize their experience" by subscribing to and accessing CNN Plus all in one place. However, CNN Plus-only subscribers do not get access to the linear feeds.

The CNN app is available on most devices, including Apple iOS and tvOS, Android and Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Samsung TV.

CNN is a division of WarnerMedia, which also owns the streaming service HBO Max. CNN Worldwide chief digital officer Andrew Morse told Variety that there are no plans to bundle CNN Plus with HBO Max at this time. However, things could change after the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery next year. A possible HBO Max, Discovery Plus and CNN Plus bundle sounds similar in nature to the one Disney offers with Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.
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