CNN + is fighting to lure viewers and draws under 10,000 daily users

People walk past the world headquarters of the Cable News Network (CNN) on March 15, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Fewer than 10,000 people use CNN + daily two weeks after its existence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The people spoke to CNBC on condition of anonymity to discuss non-public data.

CNN + was launched on March 29. The subscription news streaming service, which charges $ 5.99 per month or $ 59.99 annually, first became available on Roku on Monday and is still not on Android TV. Still, the meager audience casts doubt on the future of the application following the recently completed combination of Discovery and WarnerMedia for Warner Bros. Discovery.

To put daily user numbers into perspective, CNN’s cable network suffered a sharp drop in viewership last year, but still rose to an average of 773,000 total viewers a day.

“We continue to be pleased with the launch and its progress after just two weeks,” a CNN spokesman said.

CNN tried to make a giant splash with CNN + and lure big talent from rival news networks, such as Kasie Hunt from NBC News and Chris Wallace from Fox News. But there is widespread skepticism as to whether there is enough demand to maintain an independent news streaming service, with entertainment-first opportunities dominating the landscape. Disney +, for example, sent more than 10 million subscribers on its first day.

CNN has not published an exact number of CNN + subscribers. Disney’s ESPN +, which offers sports news programming in addition to live event broadcasts, recently reported 21.3 million subscribers. NBCUniversals Peacock, which offers news programming, reported 24.5 million monthly active accounts in the United States, of which more than 9 million were paid members. (ESPN + charges $ 6.99 a month, and Peacock offers premium levels starting at $ 4.99 a month.)

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has not commented publicly on CNN +’s long-term future. He told CNBC in February that he needed to see how the application worked before deciding on the next move.

“I have not received a business review of what CNN + will be and how it will be offered,” Zaslav said at the time.

It is possible, if not likely, that CNN + programming will be offered as part of a larger bundle of HBO Max and Discovery +, according to people familiar with the matter. Both of these services have millions of subscribers.

Ex-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar decided to push ahead with CNN +’s launch two weeks before the company merged with Discovery. Kilar left the company last week. He was optimistic about the number of subscribers in an interview with CNBC, but quoted no figures.

“It’s ahead of my expectations in terms of where the subscribers are, the commitment, the receptivity we get in terms of people’s reaction to the journalists on CNN +,” Kilar told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “I could not be more proud of that team.”

Axios reported earlier Tuesday that the new leadership at Warner Bros. Discovery plans to cut into hundreds of millions of investment dollars for the service, raising concerns about its future. Upcoming CNN boss Chris Licht joins Warner Bros. Discovery on May 1 and will make decisions on how best to proceed, two of the individuals said.

Publication: NBCUniversal is CNBC’s parent company.

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