CNN Plus Has Negative Subscribers (Figurative)

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ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MARCH 15: People walk by the world headquarters for CNN on March 15, 2022 in Atla...
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On March 29, CNN launched CNN+, a subscription news service with some bold-name hosts (Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper), some less-bold-name hosts (Poppy Harlow), a handful of canceled ones (Alison Roman and Chris Wallace), and an archive of Anthony Bourdain’s old “Parts Unknown” episodes. It was supposed to be the cable network’s splashy entry to the streaming wars, a new plus to rival digital television’s many warring pluses.

But despite their early-bird special pricing (“Save 50 Percent for Life”) and a fairly prolonged publicity rollout, the service has had a hard time attracting viewers since its launch two weeks ago. According to CNBC, fewer than 10,000 people are tuning in each day. For contrast, these are the subscription numbers of some of the other pluses:

  • Disney+ had 10 million subscribers the day it launched.
  • ESPN+ recently cited 21.3 million subscribers.
  • Even Apple TV+, which had a slow start, reportedly had anywhere from eight to 20 million as of last fall.

CNN+’s Quibi-style showing could have something to do with the fact that it only got on Roku as of Monday, and is still not available on Android TV. But such excuses have apparently not satisfied CNN’s executives, according to Axios. Before the launch, CNN and the consulting firm McKinsey had predicted the platform would generate some two million subscribers in its first year and reach “15-18 million after four years.” (By the way, CNN itself had just 773,000 daily viewers last year — its second-highest in the company’s history).

To achieve this, they had been planning to invest $1 billion over those four years. But now they’re slashing that number by “hundreds of millions of dollars.” Sources told Axios that “subscriber expectations will need to be dramatically reduced if investment is cut.”

What happened with CNN+? Does it have something to do with this photo that CNN+ executive Andrew Morse tweeted shortly before the launch?


Did Chris Wallace’s raw charisma fail to reel in the news-watching public? If you work at CNN or CNN+ and would like to chat, drop us a line at or, for secure messaging.