Known as CNN+, it will exist side-by-side with CNN’s existing TV networks and offer 8-12 hours of live programming a day.
Commenting on the new service, Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports and president of CNN Worldwide, said it would be the evolution of video news and the start of a new era for the company.
He added in a statement: “CNN invented cable news in 1980, defined online news in 1995 and now is taking an important step in expanding what news can be by launching a direct-to-consumer streaming subscription service in 2022”.
Meanwhile, the executive in charge of CNN+, chief digital officer Andrew Morse, said: “this is the most important launch for CNN since Ted Turner launched the network in June of 1980”.
CNN says that while millions of people access its current service through a subscription to a cable or satellite television bundle, all cable — and broadcast — networks have taken a hit due to cord-cutting in recent years, and the popularity of products like Netflix has shown the growing appeal of streaming alternatives.
CNN can’t just sell its current live programming via streaming due to lucrative and long-term deals with cable distributors. The company generates more than a billion dollars in profit annually, largely from cable subscriber fees and advertising.
So CNN is effectively building a parallel track, right next to its existing TV track, to serve both existing cable subscribers who want additional programming and customers who don’t have cable at all.
Zucker added in a statement: “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”.
Morse said in an interview that it will have three components: original series, some brand new for CNN+ and some from the network’s archives; and something Morse called an “interactive community”.
He said the latter will give subscribers the ability “to engage directly with our talent and experts about the issues that matter most to them”.
The price tag for CNN+ will be announced later, as will specific programmes and the live schedule. Producers have been piloting possible shows in recent weeks. Morse said the shows will be led by “some of CNN’s most prominent talent, as well as several new faces,” alluding to some planned hires.
Morse also emphasised that the daily programming will be differentiated from what CNN already produces on TV.
In addition, he revealed that CNN is hiring about 450 people for CNN+, from producers to engineers to marketers. The new service will be “very different from anything else that’s out in the marketplace”.