CNN Plus could be bundled with HBO Max, exec says

(Image courtesy CNN Worldwide/Graphic by The Desk)

AT&T WarnerMedia’s latest streaming service CNN Plus is expected to be bundled with the company’s flagship entertainment streamer HBO Max down the road, a company executive affirmed during a television interview on Tuesday.

Appearing on financial news channel CNBC, AT&T WarnerMedia’s Chief Executive Officer Jason Kilar said the plan was always to bundle the streaming services so customers could enjoy a seamless integration of content.

“The vision of CNN Plus has always been twofold, which is to have a standalone service…but also have the ability to be bundled into HBO Max where [customers] are able to purchase CNN Plus and consume it either as a standalone app or within HBO Max,” Kilar said during the interview.

CNN Plus launched in late March at a price point of $6 a month, though early bird customers were able to grab a 50 percent discount for the life of their subscription. The service offers news and general interest programming from a number of recognizable cable news talent, including Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Kasie Hunt (formerly of MSNBC) and Chris Wallace (formerly of the Fox News Channel).

The service is separate from the domestic and international CNN cable news channels, which are still only available to pay TV subscribers.

In many ways, the rollout of CNN Plus mirrored that of HBO Max, which was developed and launched in a similar fashion: Like HBO Max, CNN Plus was hyped by the WarnerMedia family of brands leading up to its debut. And like HBO Max, there are still a number of streaming customers who are not able to access the service.

CNN Plus is currently only available on iOS devices (Apple TV, iPhone, iPad), Android phones and tablets (but not devices running Android TV or Google TV) and Amazon Fire TV. In a statement, a WarnerMedia spokesperson said the network is working to close distribution gaps, which should make the streamer available to Roku users at a later date. A development issue, and not a carriage dispute, is currently keeping CNN Plus off Android TV (Google TV), a source familiar with the issue said.

While Kilar said the intention of WarnerMedia was to bundle CNN Plus with HBO Max at some point, questions remain as to what both streaming services will look like in the months and years to come. Last year, AT&T surprised the media industry when it announced plans to spin off WarnerMedia into a separate company, one that would later merge with Discovery, Inc. The merger is expected to be finalized later this month; Kilar announced on Tuesday that he will resign as CEO of WarnerMedia before the merger is consummated.

Ahead of the merger, executives at Discovery have signaled their intention to merge the content libraries of HBO Max with the company’s own flagship entertainment streamer, Discovery Plus. Both will continue to operate as separate services for a while. The fate of CNN Plus remains unclear after the merger.