CNN Executives Somehow Expected Two Million Subscribers for CNN+ This Year

AP Photo/Ron Harris

In what may prove to be one of the biggest miscalculations of 2022, CNN executives went into the launch of the new premium streaming service, CNN+, expecting two million new subscribers in the first year.

According to Axios, CNN was working with a consulting firm ahead of the launch. The numbers they came up with were… ambitious, to say the least.

Details: CNN executives, with help from consulting firm McKinsey, originally expected to bring in around 2 million subscribers in the U.S. in the service’s first year and 15-18 million after four years.

  • They originally planned for the service to break even after four years.
  • Much of the subscriber opportunity executives see comes from international markets.
  • Sources say those subscriber expectations will need to be dramatically reduced if investment is cut.

This comes as Warner Media was planning a $1 billion investment into the service. After lining up a lot of talent to host unique programming on the service, the subscription numbers don’t appear to be holding up.

CNN+ launched on Tuesday, March 29 and is already showing mediocre results in terms of standalone mobile app installs. Sensor Tower released its initial figures (first reported by Insider) that show the CNN app, which now houses the new streaming service, added about 18,000 installs on the day of launch. During the seven days ending March 22, it had an average of 9,000 installs per day.

CNN’s new service includes a mix of daily news panels and documentaries such as “The Land of the Giants: Titans of Tech,” “The Murdochs: Empire of Influence,” as well as CNN anchors Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper and more.

Now, because the service is bundled into the regular CNN app, it’s possible that the numbers are much higher than what is indicated here. But multiple reports indicate that the numbers are not impressive, leading to speculation that CNN will dramatically cut its investment into the new service, and with a new top boss coming in after Jeff Zucker’s ouster earlier this year, the fate of the network is unknown.

It’s worth noting that CNN spent hundreds of millions on its launch. Fox News launched Fox Nation a few years ago and only has about 1.5 million subscribers three years in.

The company is saying the numbers are good, though.

But it’s a tough sell. CNN’s cable channel can’t even break one million viewers during prime time, lagging behind MSNBC and far behind Fox News. And it’s been pretty bad for a while. How could there be an expectation that all of the Americans rejecting CNN when it’s free would somehow be on board with paying a monthly fee to stream it on their phone or TV? It boggles the mind.

Getting millions in the first year for a service like Disney+ or HBO Max makes sense. They offer libraries of content old and new. But CNN is a cable news network without a high-demand library. There’s nothing that really lures a new audience in. There’s no logical reason to assume that two million people will sign up for a service provided by a cable network that Americans don’t seem to trust much anymore.