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Less than a month ago, the champagne flowed at the launch of CNN+ at Hudson Yards. But this afternoon the party was over, as Warner Media pulled the plug on the much-heralded, but short-lived, streaming news service.
CNN+ is packing up and shipping out of its home in Hudson Yards, with orders to cease operations just weeks after its launch. The news network’s implosion was further bad news for the mercurial winds of Hudson Yards real estate. The massive Midtown West corporate, retail, and hospitality complex has suffered high-profile vacancies and reversals since its inception, including the closure of flagship shop Neiman Marcus (now earmarked for a refit as office space) and the shutdown of public access to The Vessel.
CNN+, touted by the network itself as “the most significant launch since Ted Turner founded CNN in 1980,” had quickly settled into the West Side, securing an additional floor of CNN’s 30 Hudson Yards headquarters for studio space, with plans to hire 500 additional employees and spend more than $1 billion on the nascent streaming service. The network had also heavily invested in more than just office space, hosting a glitzy launch party at sky-high Hudson Yards eatery Peak Restaurant & Bar in March.
Incoming network president Chris Licht announced the closure at an all-hands meeting this afternoon (Thursday), which was first reported by The New York Times. CNN chief digital officer Andrew Morse — largely said to be at the forefront of the streaming service — will step down, said a person close to the matter. CNN’s new leadership at Warner Bros Discovery — including chief executive David Zaslav — was said to already be implementing a new streaming strategy and building a different executive management team.
Prolific, prominent marketing for the new concept still remains on billboards around the city, including several throughout Midtown West. The network focused much of its promotion on its high-profile hosts — anchors like Anderson Cooper — already well-known at the network and set to host Full Circle with Anderson Cooper (now circling the drain…), Kate Bolduan, who was to host 5 Things With Kate (now 0…), and Chris Wallace, formerly of Fox News Sunday, who was to helm Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace (nobody). The service also promised shows from Audie Cornish, formerly the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, actor and cookbook author Stanley Tucci, and food writer Alison Roman — many of whom were coaxed away from other high profile gigs by former network president Jeff Zucker.
Zucker himself departed CNN in February, resigning shortly before the streaming service’s launch after it was revealed that he failed to disclose a romantic relationship with one of his top executives. A champion of CNN+, insiders were said to be rattled by Zucker’s departure and the lack of a C-suite advocate for the streaming service.
Many speculated that this month’s merger between CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia (also the owners of Warner Bros films and HBO) and TV network Discovery spelled doom for the streaming service that was once heralded as the future of CNN.
For now, at least one TV studio stands strong in Hell’s Kitchen — The Daily Show with Trevor Noah recently made its triumphant return from Times Square to 11th Avenue.
CNN struggles to get viewers on cable, so I cannot understand why they’d think people were willing to pay to watch more. It’s bad business, plain and simple. And it’s the people who are losing their jobs who are paying the price for someone else’s bad decision. It’s really a shame.
I signed up, closed my account after 24 hours – nothing really of interest for me to watch. But I did have my money refunded.
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