“This is a uniquely shitty situation” – CNN’s Chairman and CEO
A few weeks ago, after a $300M investment, CNN+ shut down after operating for just three weeks.
It’s an extremely sad story for the approximately 300 employees that have been laid off, and while hindsight is 20/20, a few things jumped out at me which might be relevant to pharma as it thinks about digital.
Here’s what I gather happened:
🤔 CNN hired a ‘Big Five’ consultancy that sold them on the idea that streaming will move their brand forward
🤔 CNN leadership decided to build CNN+ from the ground up and acquired Canopy, a company specializing in personalized app and content development
🤔 Separate operating divisions were created – one for CNN’s core digital team and one for CNN+
🤔 A few months before the launch, CNN’s president, a huge advocate of CNN+, resigned
🤔 The business case was somewhat murky and unclear, with powerful internal skeptics - two months before launch, Discovery CEO (CNN’s new owner) noted that he hasn’t yet “gotten a business review on what CNN+ is going to be and how it’s going to be offered”
🤔 In the background of the launch, a merger between WarnerMedia (CNN’s old parent company) and Discovery was happening but CNN management pushed ahead with the launch rather than wait for the OK from its new corporate leaders
🤔 At an internal meeting, CNN’s new CEO compared the service to a residential property that had been constructed without the input of its intended owner: “then the new owner came in and said: ‘What a beautiful house! But I need an apartment”.
At the end of the day, it seems that there was an internal corporate tug-of-war over:
🤼 Dueling beliefs in the future of digital media and its importance to CNN’s core business
🤼 CNN+’s business case and how this investment compares to CNN’s Core business
🤼 Whether continued investment should be made in this $300M ‘experiment’ or whether the project should be quickly sunset and resources reallocated elsewhere (we know what happened)...
If you’re a pharma executive doing digital, does any of the above sounds familiar?
Happy to brainstorm if you feel your digital initiative is headed toward becoming a cautionary Harvard Case Study...