Warner Bros. Discovery Suspends CNN Plus Marketing, Replaces CFO: Report

CNN Plus
(Image credit: CNN)

In a move that manages to even frame Quibi's epic 2020 failure in a more positive light, Warner Bros. Discovery has suspended all external marketing for CNN Plus, just three weeks after the subscription streaming service's launch. 

According to Axios, the move comes simultaneously with the decision to axe CNN's longtime CFO, Brad Ferrer, and replace him with Discovery incumbent Neil Chugani. The move also follows word that CNN Plus has gathered only 150,000 subscribers in three weeks. 

CNN reps didn't immediately respond to Next TV's inquiry for confirmation and comment. 

Also read: Is CNN Plus Headed for a Quibi-Quick Exit?

CNN Plus launched on March 29, just before the closure of the $43 billion deal that spun parent company WarnerMedia off from AT&T and merged it with Discovery. 

According to Tuesday's Axios report, the newly combined company's Discovery-led management team is frustrated that WarnerMedia went ahead with the CNN Plus launch rather than delay it until after closure of the merger. Regulatory rules kept the two sides from strategizing about the launch until after the merger was officially closed. 

The Warner Bros. Discovery management team, led by erstwhile Discovery CEO David Zaslav, reportedly favors one big unified app, built around HBO Max, rather than supporting numerous niche services that compete with its biggest offering for scale. 

The guiding principle of the Warner-Discovery merger, after all, was to achieve streaming user scale on par with Netflix, a bar that currently stands at just over 220 million subscribers worldwide. 

Zaslav's group is reportedly waiting for newly hired CNN chief Chris Licht to take over on May 2 before beginning a review process on what to do with CNN Plus. 

CNN management, hamstrung by the abrupt departure of former chief Jeff Zucker in January, reportedly envisioned CNN Plus gathering around 2 million subscribers after one year and 15 million to 18 million after four years. 

WarnerMedia committed $300 million to get the service off the ground. 

Beyond the turmoil created by Zucker’s untimely exit, and the also-badly-timed transition to new Warner Bros. Discovery oversight, CNN Plus has also been dogged by distribution issues

CNN Plus was able to establish an app on Roku a week after it launched, but it remains dark on Google TV/Android TV devices, as well as Samsung smart TVs, and Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation game consoles, which combined control a huge number of U.S. connected-TV living rooms. ■

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!