Months after shuttering its much-hyped streaming service less than a month after its launch, CNN laid off the last remaining CNN+ staffers on Wednesday morning, multiple sources confirmed to The Daily Beast.
Roughly 20 staffers were given pink slips on a Wednesday morning call, said three sources with knowledge of the situation. Among those fired were members of the Interview Club, a team launched alongside the network’s streamer earlier this year that would “allow subscribers to drive the conversation and be part of the story.”
In a February press release announcing the creation of Interview Club, the network stated this was an opportunity for CNN+ subscribers to “connect directly with anchors, experts and special guests in live, interactive conversations.” This was supposed to entail the streamer’s users sending in questions either live or in advance of CNN+ scheduled interviews via their device.
Members of the Interview Club were told on Wednesday morning that the network will not move forward with the project. Additionally, those impacted would be given an opportunity to apply for other open positions in the company.
Two CNN insiders also told The Daily Beast that, following the shuttering of CNN+, this particular group of staffers was “strung along” on the promise that they would be utilized elsewhere on the digital side.
“Leadership has spent the past several months evaluating our business to ensure it is best positioned for the future,” a CNN spokesperson told The Daily Beast while confirming the layoffs. “As part of that exercise, we will stop doing some things and start doing others. CNN has opened more than 300 new jobs since May and will continue to align our resources with our greatest opportunities for growth.”
This is just the latest cost-cutting move that Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company of CNN, has implemented in an attempt to shear off billions of dollars from its balance sheet.
Amid the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery this year, the new corporate owners of the cable-news pioneer decided to ax CNN+ less than a month after its rocky launch, despite the network spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the endeavor. Hundreds of employees, some of whom had just joined the network, lost their jobs.
Since then, shake-ups have continued under the new leadership of CNN chief Chris Licht, who has been tasked with pushing the network back towards a more middle-of-road, news-first direction. Last month, Licht canceled the long-running media analysis show Reliable Sources, ousted its host Brian Stelter, and laid off the program’s production staff.
Besides Stelter, who had become a frequent target among right-wing media, the network also recently parted ways with White House correspondent John Harwood, an outspoken critic of Republicans and former President Donald Trump. These moves prompted staffers to worry about the direction of the network, especially with libertarian Warner Bros. Discovery board member John Malone advocating that CNN become more “centrist”—a nebulous term that in increasingly divided times has become something of a Rohrshach test for one’s political leanings.
This latest move to cut the Interview Club comes just days after CNN laid off staffers across its audio division. Business Insider reported on Tuesday that eight people were impacted by those layoffs, including employees in the sales division. According to Insider, the company also told staff it would be producing fewer audio series and podcasts in the coming year.