At least one of the big companies that distribute CNN via cable or satellite is unnerved by how closely the company’s new live-streaming service looks like its TV network.
Big satellite distributor DirecTV has let executives at Warner Bros. Discovery know via letter that its executives believe the similarities between the two products violate the carriage contract between the two companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. The new CNN streaming service, CNN Max, just launched last week and includes many of programs that run on linear CNN, including “CNN This Morning,” “The Lead With Jake Tapper” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”
The New York Times previously reported the contretemps between DirecTV and Warner Bros. Discovery.
“WBD maintains strong and meaningful relationships with our affiliate partners. Our partners are aware of and understand our rationale with Max, which is to reach new audiences,” Warner Bros. Discovery said in a statement. A spokesperson for DirecTV did not respond immediately to queries seeking comment.
Warner Bros. Discovery has indicated it feels that CNN Max reaches a wholly different audience than its cable counterpart. A Max user may be, on average, 30 years younger than the typical CNN viewer, JB Perrette, Warner’s executive overseeing streaming, told Variety in August. “We believe this is additive, and reaches an audience that the current pay-TV marketplace does not reach.”
The weekday schedule of CNN Max features several new hours led by anchors such as Jim Acosta, Fredricka Whitfield, Rahel Solomon and Jim Scuitto. But a significant chunk of the service is built on CNN’s linear morning, late-afternoon and primetime schedule. When all is said and done, Max viewers will be able to see everything from Kasie Hunt’s “Early Start” and “CNN This Morning” to the usual evening lineup of Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Kaitlan Collins, Abby Phillip and Laura Coates.
All the big U.S. media companies are trying to more full-bore into streaming, working to offer sports, news and scripted programming on services like Paramount+, Hulu, Max, Tubi and others. And yet, they continue to rely on the fees DirecTV and distributors like Charter Communications pay for programming. Charter and Walt Disney Co. recently broke off service for a period of time after Charter complained that Disney was putting too much of the content that would normally have gone to its cable networks on to exclusive windows for its streaming services, which include Hulu and Disney+.
Some of CNN’s news rivals have seemed more mindful of this dynamic. CNN’s most sizable rival, NBC News, has launched and expanded a live-streamed ad-supported service called NBC News Now, which is also used to fill the daytime schedules of some of the company’s affiliates. The company has also developed streaming products for “Today” and “Dateline” as well as for MSNBC But it too has tested new frontiers. NBCU streams its morning cable-news programs “Morning Joe” and “Squawk Box” live. Fox News has cultivated an audience for its subscription-based Fox Nation that is interested in topics other than politics, including real estate, true crime and comedy. CBS News, which got into streaming in 2014, has dispatched John Dickerson, Norah O’Donnell and its Washington bureau team to host bespoke programs there.
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