The streaming service CNN+ will be shut down weeks after its launch


Discovery executives, distrustful of antitrust rules, were prevented from advising their colleagues at CNN until the merger was complete. CNN+ lost its champion when Mr. Zucker left with a colleague in February over an undisclosed romantic relationship. But Jason Kilar, WarnerMedia’s chief executive, pressed on anyway, launching the streaming platform on March 29, much to the frustration of Discovery executives.

It quickly became apparent that Mr. Zaslav had a completely different view of the digital strategy.

On the morning of April 11, Discovery’s first business day — and 90 minutes before WBD stock even went live on Nasdaq — JB Perrette, Discovery’s global head of streaming, called a meeting with CNN executives.

Mr. Perrette had a message: Marketing of CNN+ should be suspended pending a formal review of the deal, said three people familiar with the conversation.

Warner Bros. Discovery executives wanted to merge its other subscription platforms — Discovery+ and HBO Max — into one giant streaming service. They weren’t convinced that a niche product like CNN+ could be viable on its own.

And then there was the debt issue. Discovery’s merger leaves the conglomerate owed around $55 billion, which executives are now pressuring to pay back. CNN had planned to spend more than $1 billion on CNN+ over four years, two people familiar with the matter said, and even rent an extra floor of its pricey Manhattan skyscraper.

Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer and one of the key architects of CNN+ who became the service’s biggest internal advocate, countered that subscription-based online news could be successful, citing the New York Times as an example. CNN+ executives said they gained 150,000 paid subscribers and are on track to meet year one subscription goals.

Discovery executives weren’t impressed: At any point in time, fewer than 10,000 people watched the service, said two people familiar with the numbers who weren’t authorized to speak publicly. (On Thursday, Mr. Morse said he was leaving the network entirely.)


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