CNN has experienced a steady decline in ratings over the last few years, falling 57 percent in prime time viewers year over year last quarter alone, which makes the network’s decision to launch a new streaming service called CNN Plus the service viewers don’t seem to want and never asked for.
On Monday, CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker announced the move to enter the streaming platform space, a decision that comes long after the network’s competitors Fox News and MSNBC launched their own, Fox Nation and Peacock respectively.
The network seems to have a distorted vision of their own coverage of the audience’s appetite for more content from them. “No, it’s not going to be ideological,” Andrew Morse, CNN Worldwide Chief Digital Officer said of CNN Plus, “We’re just not in that game. We’re not an opinion network, we’re a news network.”
That’s just not true.
The consistent drop in their viewership would say otherwise. “Q3 will be even worse in looking at the trends for both networks [CNN and MSNBC] if that’s possible. The numbers are where they are because of two things: Their myopic ratings hook, Donald Trump, isn’t around anymore. But more importantly, these networks have a serious credibility problem,” Fox News contributed Joe Concha explained.
“The departure of Trump from office is surely a factor in the ratings declines at CNN and MSNBC, but their problems go beyond that,” DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall added.
It’s not difficult to see some of the issues the network has faced in just the last year or so. Network host Chris Cuomo was given more airtime despite numerous scandals ranging from multiple sexual assault allegations to breaking Covid-19 quarantine restrictions, to serving as clean-up crew for his brother, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo amid the New York Covid-19 nursing home scandal.
Not to mention the network’s most recent decision to welcome chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin back on-air with open arms after a horrifying scandal where he was caught masturbating on a corporate Zoom call.
The network also faced scrutiny this year when Project Veritas exposed footage of CNN Technical Director Charlie Chester saying CNN’s “focus was to get Trump out of office” and that CNN will aide Biden, “a young geriatric” in getting “through this term.”
“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,” Zucker claimed in the press release that accompanied the announcement.
Zucker’s vision ignores a few glaring problems. CNN is no longer the most-trusted name in news and hasn’t been in a long time, and it’s not as if CNN is re-inventing the wheel here– other news networks already have digital streaming platforms. In fact, the aforementioned Fox Nation was launched four years ago and boasts a few hundred thousand subscribers.
CNN has experienced a fall from grace, unable to even crack the one million mark in prime time viewers in the second quarter of 2021, instead averaging about 914,000 viewers.
The plan is for CNN Plus is to function as a service “that 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 network press release.
CNN Plus will be unveiled later this year under the network’s CNN app. Viewers can expect “original, live, on demand and interactive programming as a standalone direct-to-consumer service with offerings that are separate and distinct from CNN, CNN International, HLN and CNN en Español linear TV channels,” according to the press release, “at launch, 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, will live alongside a thriving community component for fans to connect directly with anchors and experts in real time conversations about the issues that matter most to them.”
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