Chris Wallace’s CNN+ show is reportedly headed to HBO Max
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Although not confirmed by CNN, the network is reportedly finalizing plans to add “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” to the HBO Max streaming service owned by its parent, Warner Bros. Discovery. HBO Max was also part of the same corporate family as CNN prior to the merger when AT&T still operated the businesses under its WarnerMedia division.
CNN is reportedly paying Wallace in the neighborhood of $9 million a year. He was hosting the show on CNN+ four days a week, though it’s not clear what his new schedule might be.
The network reportedly has to pay him at least a significant portion of his contract in almost any circumstance, including the closure of CNN+ or cancellation of his show, so it makes sense to keep him around producing original content.
There had been talk that Wallace would take over the 9 p.m. timeslot formerly occupied by “Cuomo Prime Time” — and there’s nothing saying he couldn’t do both jobs — but it’s also not clear if he’d be the best fit for this competitive time period and the goal of luring in younger and older viewers alike.
“Who’s Talking” originates from Washington, D.C., where Wallace was based when he worked for Fox’s right-leaning commentary channel.
In many ways, the interview show is similar to the classic “Larry King Live” show the network aired in its heyday.
Putting the show on HBO Max is more in line with the streaming strategy Discovery executives appear to have been aiming for when it was eyeing buying WarnerMedia. Discovery has its owner streamer, Discovery+, and has already indicated it plans to merge it with HBO Max at some point.
Executives at Discovery reportedly wanted CNN to hold off on launching CNN+ so that it could integrate it more strategically with its streaming plans, but were legally barred from communicating with WarnerMedia leadership in the time leading up to the closing of the deal.
Even after pulling the plug on CNN+, WBD leadership indicated it still wants to include CNN in its streaming offerings and Wallace’s show finding a new life there could be the first sign of how that arrangement might work.
Many streaming services offer “channels” — which can be curated collections of on demand content or live streams featuring specific genres or shows, so it could make sense to eventually give CNN something like that inside of HBO Max.
Overall, WBD execs appear focused on building a shared streaming service featuring content from all or most of its outlets in order to build a massive library of content to make paying a monthly fee appealing to consumers.
With recent sour news from Netflix, Paramount Global and the CNN+ shutdown itself, it appears the crowded streaming space may be finally slowing down, so building out a mega-streaming service could pay off.
CNN announced it would shutter CNN+ April 30, 2022 (before changing that date to April 28, 2022) — meaning it was in operation less than a month. The effort had reportedly burned through hundreds of millions in cash and had only garnered around 150,000 signups with an average of 10,000 people viewing it a day, falling well short of CNN’s projections and nowhere near the trajectory it would need to be profitable, especially given high priced talent such as Wallace and Kasie Hunt, who the network lured from NBC.
Hunt hosted “The Source” for the brief life of CNN+ and said on air she would remain with the network as a correspondent.