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CNN+ is a news service for a post-cable world

Protocol Entertainment

Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re taking a closer look at CNN+ and what it tells us about CNN’s future. Also: AR and VR for kids, and a movie-guessing game for everyone.

CNN+ doesn’t want to replace CNN. Or does it?

CNN is ready for your streaming dollars: The news network launched CNN+, its first direct-to-consumer service, on Tuesday. The new service builds on some of the network’s core strengths, including its library of documentary shows and feature films. It also gives us a first glimpse of what CNN’s future might look like.

CNN+ looks very much like an on-demand streaming service on the surface. Think Netflix or Disney+, but with Anderson Cooper and Chris Wallace instead of “Stranger Things” and “Hawkeye.”

  • CNN+ even borrows some of the streaming lingo from its entertainment siblings, advertising W. Kamau Bell’s CNN show and a serialized documentary about the Murdoch family as “binge-worthy series.”
  • It’s launching with a bunch of originals, some of which air live: “5 Things with Kate Bolduan,” a morning news briefing, will be streamed weekdays at 7 a.m. ET. Brian Stelter’s “Reliable Sources Daily” follows a few hours later, and a weekday newscast with Wolf Blitzer will air at 7:30 p.m. ET.
  • But catching things live might pose a challenge, especially for people on the West Coast. Episodes can be streamed after they’ve aired.
  • This is more than just an effect of a small-but-growing lineup of live shows: CNN could have presented its live programming in a linear channel-like experience, complete with reruns filling out 24/7 programming and perhaps an EPG similar to that of NBCUniversal’s Peacock service.
  • The team designing the service purposefully decided against such a channel model, according to CNN CTO Robyn Peterson. “We didn't want to create what we call a ‘news wheel,’” Peterson told me recently.

Not re-creating CNN as a streaming network makes sense for CNN+. There are legal reasons CNN can’t just sell its existing network as a standalone streaming service; it’s still a key part of the cable bundle, and pay TV service operators wouldn’t be too thrilled if the same service were also available unbundled.

  • Instead, CNN will continue to carry a live feed of its cable network for authenticated viewers. The feed is integrated into the CNN+ interface, but it feels more like an add-on than a key component.
  • Case in point: There are no special incentives for cable subscribers who already have CNN to also get CNN+. “We look at CNN+ as being a completely additive but complementary service,” Peterson said. “A pay TV subscriber who wants CNN+ [needs] an additional subscription.”
  • There is also no CNN+ to CNN programming pipeline. For instance, CNN+ will use the CNN brand and its well-known anchors to secure high-profile interview partners for its interactive “Interview Club,” but cable subscribers won’t get to see those interviews if they don’t have a CNN+ subscription as well.
  • “All of this is exclusive to CNN+,” said CNN+ Senior Product Manager Kari McMinn.

This just in: The news industry is changing, forcing networks like CNN to adapt. Cord cutting is slowly but surely destroying the cable bundle, and audiences have plenty of other choices to get their news.

  • From Newsy to ABC News Live, a growing number of free streaming networks are providing 24/7 live news for free. Outlets like The New York Times are increasingly devoting live blogs to breaking news stories. And for any news junkie still not satisfied, there’s always the Twitter firehose. There’s less of a need now to tune in to CNN for your daily news diet.
  • Cable news networks have adapted to this with hours and hours of punditry, and Fox News is betting that the same thing will work online. On the network’s Fox Nation streaming service, right-wing pundit Dan Bongino gets a whopping three hours of live programming a day.

CNN+ is instead betting on providing context, with the “Interview Club” being one of its most ambitious formats. “This is a way to really make news much more of a learning experience,” Peterson said. If it works, it may just provide CNN with a signal on how to reinvent itself in a post-cable world.

— Janko Roettgers

AR and VR are coming for the primary school crowd

Meta may be insisting that its Quest VR headset is only for ages 13 and up, but that doesn't stop other companies from tapping AR and VR tech to build products for younger kids. This week, two such products are launching, and examining each can help us see where kid-focused entertainment is going.

Spatial computing startup Quantum Storey has struck a deal with Hasbro to release a series of books that double as AR and VR portals. First up is “My Little Pony: Virtual Magic,” which ships with a Google Cardboard-style VR viewer; it offers short AR and VR experiences at the end of every chapter. The book is scheduled to ship in the next few weeks, and follow-up titles tied to the “Transformers” and “Clue” franchises are already in the works.

Amazon’s Glow projector is now available to everyone. The company first introduced Glow last fall and has been positioning it as a kind of interactive video-calling device, but there’s a lot of potential here for using projection mapping to build immersive, AR-like media experiences that don’t require headsets.

Granted, Glow is expensive ($299), and the Quantum Storey books might be a bit of a novelty product. However, there’s no reason that similar technologies won’t find their way into all kinds of products, be it smart displays with extended projection surfaces or school books that seamlessly combine the analog with the digital.

— Janko Roettgers


Today’s job landscape is challenging for organizations looking to recruit and retain top tech talent. Recent labor trends, many of which are fueling The Great Resignation, have shown leaders across industries that their employees are searching for more.

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In other news

Sony finally unveils its new subscription gaming offering, but it’s not designed to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. Instead, Sony is playing it safe and biding its time, as there are major questions about the viability of the market that haven’t shaken out yet.

Nreal secured another $60 million in funding. The AR glasses-maker’s latest cash infusion comes from Alibaba, and brings the total amount raised by Nreal to $200 million.

Indie studio Funomena may shut its doors after an investigation. News of the potential closure — which will happen if Funomena doesn’t secure an investment in time — dropped less than two weeks after an investigative report from People Make Games highlighted co-founder and CEO Robin Hunicke’s abuse and mistreatment.

Nielsen is going private. The media measurement company has agreed to a buyout that puts its value at around $16 billion.

Disney Streaming hires Google veteran Jeremy Doig as CTO. Doig worked for Google for 18 years before his move to Disney, where he will oversee all of the company’s streaming tech.

A predictable Zelda delay. The sequel to 2017 hit The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been pushed to 2023, Nintendo announced on Tuesday. It’s not wholly unexpected; numerous main Zelda games have faced delays in the past, and a 2022 release for this entry felt overly-ambitious.

Spotify is testing a podcast discovery feed with a TikTok-like interface. The world’s largest music service really would like its subscribers to listen to more non-music programming.

Amazon has hired former Hulu product leader Ben Smith as its new Prime Video & Amazon Studios VP of Product. Smith is getting back into streaming after a three-year sabbatical. Life goals!

Like Wordle, but movies

I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t there enough Wordle clones already? Yes, but this one’s different. Moviedle plays a one-second clip, fast forwarding through a classic movie. Then you guess and probably get it wrong. Next up is a two-second clip, and so forth. You only get to guess one movie a day, and it’s surprisingly difficult! Moviedle was the result of a hackathon, so don’t expect a polished UI. It’s still a lot of fun, if only for the fact that all those late nights watching TV are finally paying off.

— Janko Roettgers


Technology organizations need to look internally to find the talent they seek by upskilling and reskilling their existing tech workforce. For this vision to become a reality, organizations must focus on being creators, rather than consumers, of talent.

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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

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