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CNN+ Plus: Stream All About It

Initially, when I joined CNN, it was to ideate and bring direct-to-consumer products to market, with a focus on interaction. CNN had long ago shipped user-generated content off of its own products and pushed it away to generic, third-party social media.

The first product to come out of those efforts was Interview Club, a live Q&A product that would be driven by a community of smart question askers. But as that idea was getting closer to being ready, there was a change from above: CNN intended to launch a streaming service, and Interview Club would be one of the primary offerings.

Our work shifted, and I spent 18 months building a streaming service that, with a reported $300 million invested across content, talent, and technology, may have been the largest such launch in history. Interview Club was an early favorite and the most widely-praised part of the product in our first batch of reviews.

CNN+ was three weeks old when my wife gave birth to our first son. 12 hours later, on my first day of parental leave, in the hospital recovery room, my phone started going off.

CNN+ had become the classic victim of a media merger, with Discovery’s leadership deciding they would close the service. It wasn’t for lack of subscribers. With allegedly 150,000 paying subscribers only a few weeks in, we were ahead of our goals. The great tragedy of CNN+ is not that it closed, but that it was never given a chance to fail or succeed on its own merit.

16 months later, Warner Bros. Discovery would launch a similar effort, dubbed CNN Max. It was inevitable.