One of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav's first moves after last year's WarnerMedia Discovery merger was to pull the plug on CNN's streaming service, CNN Plus, less than a month after it went live. Now, WBD is reimagining the short-lived project as a 24/7 live-stream news channel available on the company’s own streaming service Max.
It's called CNN Max, and in a press release this week, WBD described it as "part of an open beta for news that will enable experimentation with product features, content offerings, and original storytelling, all with the input and feedback from the Max community.”
The hub will include a 24/7 live stream of the legacy cable news network's U.S. and international news feeds, where long-time viewers will spot several familiar faces. CNN Max will feature some of CNN's tentpole shows like The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper 360, The Lead with Jake Tapper and Amanpour. Alongside new programming exclusive to Max, like “CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta, Rahel Solomon, Amara Walker and Fredricka Whitfield” and “CNN Newsroom with Jim Sciutto," WBD said. And while it'll offer much of the same programming as CNN's linear cable network, there are some key differences.
"CNN Max is differentiated by having 24/7 news at its core from CNN, the leading global news organization, and being available on a scaled streaming service in the U.S., which has a significantly younger and additive audience compared to traditional TV," said JB Perrette, Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO and president of global streaming and games, in the company's press release. “We’re excited to engage our Max community in this initial beta stage to help us learn and develop what appeals most to our customers in this new genre.”
CNN Max launches in beta in the U.S. on September 27, and it'll be available across all of Max's subscription tiers at no extra cost. Once it goes live, Max subscribers will see the current CNN Originals hub rebranded as CNN Max. That's where they'll be able to tune into CNN Max's 24/7 news live-stream as well as watch on-demand content. Max says there are over 900 episodes of current and legacy programming, including CNN originals like Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? and The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper along with all 12 seasons of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
The move comes just over a year and a half after WBD killed CNN Plus just a few weeks following its buzz-filled launch. An Axios report attributed WBD's decision to low subscriber numbers—just 150,000 in the first two weeks—that fell well below the 2 million projected by the end of its first year. As well as skepticism that the subscription service could reach profitability in a reasonable time frame amid an increasingly crowded streaming landscape.
To that end, CNN Max feels like a good compromise, allowing viewers to tune into the news they already watch on a streaming service they already subscribe to.