CNN Plus is dead — after less than a month [Update]

The CNN logo outside of its offices
(Image credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock)

We're hoping you didn't get CNN Plus for its "Deal of a Lifetime discount." Anyone who subscribed to the $5.99 per month service was going to save 50% for as long as they kept their account open. Sadly, though, CNN Plus is now dead in the water. And it fell apart after less than a single month.

This news comes to us from Variety, which reported that parent company Warner Bros. Discovery "is shutting down" CNN Plus. Staffers, much like audiences and readers around the world, are getting details today, according to "two people familiar with the matter" speaking to Variety. CNN then confirmed the news itself, announcing the service will shutter on April 30, a full month after its March 29 debut.

This is the latest bad news story in the streaming media landscape, arriving days after Netflix's earnings revealed its first overall subscriber loss in a financial quarter. The big red streaming machine lost more than 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022.

CNN Plus execs, though, likely wish they could have lost that many subscribers. According to a report from Sarah Fisher at Axios, CNN Plus had signed up "roughly 150,000 subscribers" as of the start of this week.

Update: CNN has confirmed that CNN Plus is shutting down and we have the following statement:

“In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling,” said Discovery’s streaming boss J.B. Perrette .


♬ misery 4 u - Nick

Analysis: What went wrong with CNN Plus?

The early demise of CNN Plus seems to be a case of the wrong service at the wrong time. As big a deal as CNN is, the service debuted during the peak of competition among the best streaming services

Too much competition: Right now, HBO Max is on the rise, Netflix is having a hard time keeping subscribers, and Peacock and Paramount Plus offer live events and news. This market is inarguably over-saturated.

Heck, Apple TV Plus — after a while of waiting for a big hit, and then another while of waiting for something people love that isn't than Ted Lasso — is thriving at the moment, with shows such as Severance, The Afterparty and Pachinko. It even won the Best Picture Oscar, a first for a streaming service, for CODA. But it only made it this far because Apple was more than happy to let things ride in the lull months.

The CNN Plus logo

(Image credit: CNN Plus)

New management: CNN is one of the many brands in the Warner Bros. Discovery empire that arrived via acquisition. But with acquisition comes new bosses, and those bosses may have higher standards. This appears to be the case, as Fischer's report in Axios notes that while CNN executives though CNN Plus' launch "has been successful," that's not enough when "Discovery executives disagree."

That same management plans on merging HBO Max and Discovery Plus, and we could see CNN content falling into this new super-service.

A content problem: CNN Plus has what I call "the ESPN Plus problem." ESPN Plus launched without the actual live ESPN channels, and has yet to add them. CNN Plus did the same, arriving without the key property that people connect to its brand. 

That said, ESPN Plus became a must-have for UFC fans, as that's where UFC PPVs live. Similarly, Peacock is now a must for WWE fans, after acquiring the rights to stream World Wrestling Entertainment's live events, as well as its back catalogue.

If you love CNN, why would you get CNN Plus when you can just watch CNN? Advertised content suggested CNN fans got more of their favorite personalities, including Don Lemon and Anderson Cooper. And this makes CNN Plus look like a very niche service, appealing to the die-hards in its audience.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.