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Opinion: What does the rise, fall of CNN+ say for the future of streaming?

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Business failings tend to come with lessons learned, and the streaming industry is no stranger to that notion.

Most recently, CNN’s streaming service, an investment bet reportedly in the hundreds of millions of dollars, was canceled just a month after its launch. Reporting by Quartz indicates CNN+ gathered only 10,000 daily viewers – compared with tens of millions for established streaming services – despite the promise of as many as a dozen brand-new live shows and the hirings of veteran newscasters like Chris Wallace and Kasie Hunt.

There likely are myriad reasons why CNN+ failed. Streaming service fatigue certainly seems to be one of the top reasons why. But it also comes down to timing.

The decision to shutter the service came after CNN’s former parent company, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. in April. According to CNN Business, Warner Bros. Discovery prefers an all-encompassing streaming service. Such a service may encompass CNN+ programming in addition to the other content, according to the report.

“In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service which provides a better experience and more value than standalone offerings, and, for the company, a more sustainable business model to drive our future investments in great journalism and storytelling,” said J.B. Perrette, Discovery’s streaming leader, in a statement. “We have very exciting opportunities ahead in the streaming space and CNN, one of the world’s premier reputational assets, will play an important role there.”

It’s expected that Discovery Plus and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max will combine into one streaming service, according to media reports.

That brings us right back to streaming service fatigue.

It’s no secret that Netflix ushered in a new era of television viewing. TV shows and movies that are easy to access, from anywhere, with no ads, at a fairly inexpensive price? Well, that’s pretty much a no-brainer for consumers. Cable TV doesn’t stand a chance against that model.

But Netflix’s popularity also meant others wanted a piece of that pie. According to Forbes reporting from December 2021, there were around 50 streaming services operating at that time in North America alone.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s a lot to pay for.

Perhaps ironically, consumer tastes seem to be veering back toward the cable model amid this fatigue over so many streaming services.

According to the inaugural State of Play report released in April by audience analytics firm Nielsen, the streaming industry is at a bit of a crossroads. Media companies need streaming-first mindsets while also being hyperaware of consumer behavior and sentiment to “keep them engaged amid an evergrowing range of choice,” according to Nielsen.

Survey data collected for the report show consumers overwhelmingly support streaming services, but with a caveat that “the vastness of platform choice has become overwhelming for audiences.”

Of the nearly 1,400 U.S. adults over the age of 18 polled for the survey report, 64% said they wished there was a bundled video streaming service. And 46% of surveyed viewers said it’s too difficult to find content because of the number of streaming services.

Going by the Nielsen report, streaming bundles that create a cable-like channel service could be something that catches hold.

So, maybe Warner Bros. Discovery is onto something here with their plan to bundle their various streaming services. It’ll certainly be a lesson learned from the failure of CNN+.

As to the consumer side of the equation, dollars spent will ultimately win out. If you’re a fan of streaming, your dollar becomes your vote as companies figure out how to take this industry into the future.

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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Smeier@mwfmarketing.fm

The success of streaming is all about CONTENT! If the content is no different than the content on regular cable, it will not be relevant as a viewing choice. Also, "one trick pony" political views are not embraced either.

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