One of the major satellite distributors of CNN content, DirecTV, has expressed concerns about the striking resemblance between the new CNN live-streaming service and the traditional cable TV network, as reported by an insider source.
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In a formal letter to Warner Bros. Discovery executives, DirecTV has raised objections, suggesting that the similarities observed between the two services may breach the existing carriage contract between the two companies. The newly launched streaming service, known as CNN Max, debuted just last week and offers a lineup that mirrors many of the programs available on the linear CNN network. These programs include popular shows like “CNN This Morning,” “The Lead With Jake Tapper,” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”
DirecTV Questions Contractual Agreement
Warner Bros. Discovery, in response to DirecTV’s concerns, maintains that their intent with CNN Max is to reach a distinct audience, quite different from their cable viewership. JB Perrette, the executive overseeing streaming at Warner Bros. Discovery, highlighted in an interview with Variety that the average age of a Max user is approximately 30 years younger than the typical CNN viewer. The company believes that this expansion into streaming is an additive move that taps into an audience not traditionally reached through the current pay-TV landscape.
Despite featuring several new hours led by anchors like Jim Acosta, Fredricka Whitfield, Rahel Solomon, and Jim Scuitto, a significant portion of CNN Max’s content is derived from CNN’s linear programming, spanning from the morning to late afternoon and primetime schedules. Max viewers have access to a wide range of shows, from Kasie Hunt’s “Early Start” and “CNN This Morning” to the evening lineup with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip, and Laura Coates.
Media Companies Embrace Streaming
The evolution into streaming services is not unique to CNN and Warner Bros. Discovery. Major U.S. media companies are aggressively expanding into streaming, offering a mix of sports, news, and scripted content on platforms like Paramount+, Hulu, Max, Tubi, and others. However, they continue to rely on fees paid by distributors like DirecTV and Charter Communications for their programming.
A recent example of such disputes was witnessed when Charter and Walt Disney Co. temporarily suspended services due to Charter’s concerns that Disney was allocating too much content, typically meant for cable networks, exclusively to its streaming platforms, including Hulu and Disney+.
Competition in the Streaming Landscape
Some of CNN’s news competitors have been more mindful of this changing landscape. For instance, NBC News has launched and expanded its ad-supported live-streaming service called NBC News Now, which is also used to fill the daytime schedules of some of the company’s affiliates. NBCU has also developed streaming products for shows like “Today” and “Dateline” and its cable-news programs “Morning Joe” and “Squawk Box” are available for live streaming. Fox News has successfully cultivated an audience for its subscription-based platform, Fox Nation, focusing on topics beyond politics, including real estate, true crime, and comedy. CBS News, an early entrant into streaming in 2014, has created bespoke programs hosted by figures like John Dickerson, Norah O’Donnell, and its Washington bureau team.