CNN+ Staffers Melt Down After Doomed Streaming Platform Shuts Down: 'Aghast and Furious'


Say what you will about Edsel, Google Glass and New Coke, at least they hung around long enough that we remember them as symbols of corporate ineptitude.

Five years from now, the one guy who I can say for certain is going to remember CNN+ is Chris Wallace.

And if, by chance, you happen to remember it and you run into the anchor who left Fox News for the little-watched streaming service in the CNN cafeteria, I wouldn’t mention it to him.

It’d be a bit like going over to Jeffrey Toobin’s table and asking if he can show you how to shut off the camera when you’re using Zoom.

On Thursday, officials at CNN’s parent company came to the conclusion any sane person would have before CNN+ launched: People weren’t going to pay extra for a streaming service run by a cable network they weren’t watching anyway.

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Now, the network’s been killed off — and, according to a report from the New York Post, employees are “aghast and furious.”

(At The Western Journal, we can’t help but admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude over CNN+’s demise. However, considering we’ve spent so much of our time chronicling how its parent network pumps unwatchable, hyperpartisan bilge into the American body politic, it’s only natural. We’ll keep documenting CNN’s biases and distortions — and you can help us bring America the truth by subscribing.)

According to the Post’s report, new CNN CEO Chris Licht broke the news that CNN+ would be shutting down at the end of the month during a noon meeting on Thursday in New York City.

This ends a costly experiment; an insider estimated the launch of the streaming platform cost $300 million and between $100 and $200 million was spent on advertising it.

Are you surprised that CNN+ was shut down so quickly?

Yet, as Newsbusters noted last Thursday, a 10-hour video of paint drying on YouTube had drawn over 1,000 percent more viewers (1.1 million) than CNN+ had active users (10,000).

This also meant that a Kickstarter campaign for potato salad had made more money ($55,000) than the streaming service did during its one month in operation, during which users only paid a $2.99 discounted fee. (The service was eventually supposed to cost $5.99 a month, a laughable figure.)

“This is f***ing crazy, it is nuts,” a CNN insider said, according to the Post, comparing the failure to Quibi — a notoriously expensive failed streaming platform launched by former Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg.

At least Quibi lasted seven months before it shut down in April 2020.

CNN insiders said the network tried its darnedest to make the platform work but it simply wasn’t going to fly.

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“All the CNN talent were basically doing double duty — Don Lemon, just announced his show a few days ago,” one staffer said. “But the writing was on the wall when CNN+ advertising was pulled a few days ago.”

The two major stars who had been lured to CNN+ for their own shows — Wallace and star MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt — reportedly will be getting jobs with CNN proper or other platforms controlled by parent company Warner Bros. Discovery. (If not, that’s another expensive write-off; Wallace signed for $9 million a year, while Hunt is making $1 million a year.)

The rest of the streaming crew isn’t so lucky.

“Network insiders were horrified to learn that all junior staffers at the streaming service were let go,” the Post reported. “The roughly 300 staffers were offered six months’ severance as well as first dibs on job opportunities within CNN, according to sources.”

At least Hunt said that her “job” for the “foreseeable future” would be helping staffers who lost their gig find a new one.

“If your organization would like a chance to benefit from their talents, my DMs are open,” she tweeted Thursday.

Wallace isn’t on Twitter, although his job for the foreseeable future will be firming up his frontrunner status to permanently replace the departed Chris Cuomo on the main network.

He reportedly was a bit less gracious than Hunt behind the scenes, with sources saying he was “having daily breakdowns” over the “miserable launch” and was demanding a “CNN show or is threatening to walk.”

However, Wallace will still have a job. Plenty won’t.

“The big people will likely be saved, but what about everybody else, the people who do the real work?” an insider said, according to the Post.

“The producers, showrunners? Some will get six months’ severance, others will not.”

And then there was the fact layoffs happened soon after the network began — despite the fact many jumped ship to the streaming platform from the more secure world of regular CNN.

“Many people left their stable jobs at CNN to go to CNN+ and then they pull it right after launch?” a source said.

“Everyone is aghast and furious.”

To get Clintonian here, I feel their pain — to a point.

Not only was CNN+ a ridiculous idea — asking people to pay more for a streaming service from a content provider that’s hemorrhaging viewership as it is — it didn’t manage to be any more innovative than what you could see on regular old CNN.

Anyone who chose to sign on to this farce willingly made a career boo-boo, and anyone who was shifted over unwillingly should have been updating his or her resumé on a daily basis.

As an example, take the network’s flagship show. (Please.)

Given absolute freedom to do what he wanted, Wallace basically recreated Charlie Rose’s old PBS show, minus the alleged serial sexual harasser. That was the format being pushed by the big CNN+ signing, recreating a show that had its heyday in the 1990s — and itself was a poor man’s version of Dick Cavett’s chat show back in the 1970s.

This was supposed to be the main attraction for the streaming service. Even a sixth season of “The Wire” couldn’t have saved CNN+.

Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald may have summed it up best.

“CNN+ had a short life — if you blinked, you missed it — but the light it cast upon the world was dull, banal and pointless, like a wisp of wind that you’re not even sure blew by,” he tweeted. “By next Wednesday, nobody will remember it existed, and that’s sad.”

CNN+’s employees may be “aghast and furious.” They should not, however, be surprised — not with the thin gruel they were offering.

When you can’t compete with a stream of paint drying for $300 million in startup cash, there are issues.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture