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CNN pulls the plug on the network's streaming platform after only a month


In a matter of weeks, the cable TV network CNN dove into internet streaming and then climbed back out. It is shutting down CNN+. The company attracted big-name talent from NBC, Fox and NPR, among others - Chris Wallace, Audie Cornish, Kasie Hunt. But then a new corporate parent had other ideas. Carol Costello joins us now. She's a former CNN anchor who now teaches journalism.


CAROL COSTELLO: (Laughter) Oh, nice to be with you this morning. You know, that all sounded so painful for me, and I don't even work there anymore.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) Oh, my goodness. Well, what did you think about when you heard the news?

COSTELLO: Well, first of all, I was sad because here it goes again, CNN taking another hit on its reputation. And this time, it's so not deserved. And I'm really disappointed that this new venture in delivering news was not given time to work.

INSKEEP: That does surprise me as well. Building an audience on the internet - sometimes things are instant hits. But sometimes it takes years to build an audience. And they gave it weeks.

COSTELLO: (Laughter) I know, weeks. You know, the sad thing is, it isn't often that, like, tens of millions of dollars is invested in an experimental venture, one that, you know, the company bigwigs expect to lose money in the short term in order to gain in the long term. That doesn't happen very often. But they were willing to do that in this big news experiment. It was big. It was risky. It was flashy. And it would have been a great test for the future of the news industry.

INSKEEP: Was it just a matter of the change in corporate parents here, new management with new priorities? Or was something else going wrong?

COSTELLO: No. I just think it came down to Discovery. They didn't want to gamble on something that would take a long minute to work. And they didn't think there were enough people willing to pay - what? - six bucks for a video news service.

INSKEEP: And that was the business model here. There are other internet streaming services that provide live news. CBS has one. ABC has one. But in this case, they wanted people to pay - a subscription service. Put people up front. That was a risk, I suppose.

COSTELLO: That was a risk. But again, this was an experimental, big, new venture, and maybe they would have adjusted in the future, you know, if it wasn't working. But to just cancel it after a few weeks - it just doesn't seem that they gave that model a chance to work. And that's sad.

INSKEEP: Now, this is something that the old CNN management described as the future of the company, the future of news. Do you think that internet streaming is, in fact, the future of the news?

COSTELLO: Yes. I absolutely think it's the future of news. They're still figuring it out, though, right? It's going to take a minute. And, you know, the way we consume news is changing every single day. But there's no doubt that people are moving their attention online. So news organizations like CNN have to figure it out. And this was their big idea.

INSKEEP: I'm thinking about the way this can be used. I know the CBS internet streaming thing - I can just bring it up on my television. It's just regular TV. It just happens to be over the internet. Is that what you envision happening? Is this something that people would consume in smaller bites, on smaller screens? What does the future look like to you?

COSTELLO: Talking specifically about CNN, you know, people watch CNN for its live coverage. They really love that - and breaking news. That's hard to duplicate, I think, on a smaller screen online. That will be a big challenge for the CNNs of the world, right? But again, they need time to figure it out. And maybe they were on their way with CNN+, but now we'll never know.

INSKEEP: Carol Costello is a former CNN anchor and journalism lecturer at Loyola Marymount University.

Thanks so much.


(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.