Chris Licht, the incoming president of CNN, held an all-hands meeting Thursday afternoon to share the news with hundreds of CNN+ staff. Licht had already informed CNN Executive Vice President Andrew Morse, who oversees the recently launched service, according to Variety.
The digital service is set to shut down on April 30, according to The New York Times. CNN confirmed the date soon after.
The decision was made after CNN’s former parent company, WarnerMedia, merged with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery. CEO David Zaslav has said that he wants to house all of the company’s brands, including Discovery+ and HBO Max, under one streaming service.
“This decision is in line with WBD’s broader direct-to-consumer strategy,” Licht said in an email to staff. “In a complex streaming market, consumers want simplicity and an all-in service, which provides a better experience and more value than stand-alone offerings.”
According to Variety, Zaslav was annoyed from the beginning when former WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar made the decision to launch CNN+ just weeks before Discovery was set to merge with the company.
CNN+ was heavily advertised ahead of its launch, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to hire staff and marquee names. Under former President Jeff Zucker, CNN hired a number of stars to join the streaming service, including former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, former NPR co-host Audie Cornish and former NBC correspondent Kasie Hunt.
The streaming service found difficulty, though, with convincing enough people to pay $5.99 for a monthly subscription, which offered both live and on-demand programming. While the network has not released data on how many people subscribed, early media reports suggested the number was lower than expected for a streaming service.
Morse will leave the company after a transition period, and Alex MacCallum was named to oversee CNN’s digital side. CNN+ employees will be paid and receive benefits for the next 90 days while they “explore opportunities at CNN, CNN Digital and elsewhere in the Warner Bros. Discovery family,” according to Licht’s email. At the end of the 90 days, any exiting CNN+ employees will receive a minimum severance of six months, depending on the length of service at the company.
At the town hall-style meeting with CNN+ employees on Thursday, Licht said he vowed to minimize the impacts of the service shutdown on staff.
“It’s not your fault that you had the rug pulled out from underneath you,” he told staff, according to CNN.
Discovery’s streaming chief executive, J.B. Perrette, expressed frustration with CNN’s prior leadership, telling CNN+ employees during the town hall “some of this was avoidable” but that “prior leadership decided to just keep going” with the launch.