CNN+ struggles to lure viewers in its early days, drawing fewer than 10,000 daily users

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People walk by the world headquarters for the Cable News Network (CNN) on March 15, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Fewer than 10,000 people are using CNN+ on a daily basis two weeks into its existence, according to people familiar with the matter.

The people spoke with CNBC on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss non-public data.

CNN+ launched on March 29. The subscription news streaming service, which charges $5.99 a month or $59.99 annually, only became available on Roku on Monday and still isn’t on Android TV. Still, the paltry number casts doubt on the future of the application following the recently completed combination of Discovery and WarnerMedia into Warner Bros. Discovery.

To put the streaming service’s daily user number in perspective, CNN’s cable network suffered a sharp decline in viewership last year but still rang up an average of 773,000 total viewers a day.

“We continue to be happy with the launch and its progress after only two weeks,” a CNN spokesperson said.

CNN sought to make a huge splash with CNN+, luring big-name talent from rival news networks, such as Kasie Hunt from NBC News and Chris Wallace from Fox News. But here is broad skepticism whether there’s enough demand to sustain a standalone news streaming service as entertainment-first options dominate the landscape. Disney+, for instance, posted more than 10 million subscribers in its first day of existence.

CNN hasn’t released an exact number of CNN+ subscribers. Disney’s ESPN+, which offers sports news programming in addition to live event broadcasts, recently reported 21.3 million subscribers. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which features news programming, reported 24.5 million monthly active accounts in the U.S., more than 9 million of which were paid members. (ESPN+ charges $6.99 a month, and Peacock offers premium tiers starting at $4.99 a month.)

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav hasn’t commented on CNN+’s long term future. He told CNBC in February he’d need to see how the application performed before deciding next moves.

“I haven’t gotten a business review on what CNN+ is going to be and how it’s going to be offered,” Zaslav said at the time.

It’s possible, if not likely, that CNN+ programming will offered as part of a larger bundled offering of HBO Max and Discovery+, according to people familiar with the matter. Both of those services have millions of subscribers.

Ex-WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar decided to push ahead with CNN+’s launch two weeks before merging the company with Discovery. Kilar left the company last week. He told CNBC subscriber numbers were ahead of his expectations, although he declined to quantify what that meant.

“It’s ahead of my expectations in terms of where the subscribers are, the engagement, the receptiveness that we’re getting in terms of people’s response to the journalists of CNN+,” Kilar told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin. “I couldn’t be more proud of that team.”

Axios reported earlier Tuesday that new leadership at Warner Bros. Discovery plans to cut hundreds of millions of investment dollars for the service given concern over its future. Incoming CNN chief Chris Licht will join Warner Bros. Discovery May 1 and will make decisions on how best to proceed, two of the people said.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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