CNN explains why it's pulling its high-performing Anderson Cooper news show off Facebook Watch

anderson cooper

  • WarnerMedia’s CNN is taking back its Facebook show, “Anderson Cooper Full Circle,” to run on its own platforms.
  • The shift comes one year into Facebook’s funding news shows for its video section, Watch.
  • The move shows how news outlets are taking more control of their IP in order to monetize it as much as possible.
  • As streaming services compete for news programs, Facebook has given its publishers more flexibility to distribute their funded shows off Watch.
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One year after Facebook began to fund news shows for Watch, WarnerMedia’s CNN is pulling its show, one of the section’s most popular, from the video section’s news hub.

CNN is taking “Anderson Cooper Full Circle” off Facebook as of July 17 to stream it exclusively on its own site and apps.

Read more: ‘We are more digital-first’: An NBC News exec explains how the broadcaster is taking on ABC and CBS to win millennials on streaming services

CNN’s “Full Circle” was Watch’s fourth most popular news show behind the likes of ABC News and Fox News, averaging 200,000 views per episode, according to Conviva, a streaming video measurement company. In contrast, digital publishers BuzzFeed and ATTN were getting around 10,000 views and as little as 50,000 views per episode, respectively. Of course, Watch has a whole host of entertainment shows outside of news, some of which can get millions of views per episode.

Andrew Morse, EVP and GM of CNN Digital Worldwide, said the decision to take “Full Circle” off Facebook is in keeping with CNN’s longstanding stance toward the platforms.

“We were able to use Facebook as an R&D opportunity rather than the platform use us as guinea pigs,” Morse said. “They paid us a significant amount of money. It’s the way everyone should be looking at digital media these days. We’ve always said it was important to be wherever our audience is, but also said it was important to receive value for that content.”

CNN isn’t joining rivals in launching another streaming news service

The big picture is that news organizations today have an increasing number of places they can take their shows, said Nick Cicero, VP of strategy for Conviva.

“Everybody is building up their premium news inventory,” Cicero said. “That’s why you’re seeing The New York Times partner with Hulu and FX, BuzzFeed do shows on Netflix. News is moving out of being just breaking and text-based as more streaming services compete for content. Every package needs to have a slice of the news.”

At the same time, Facebook also has gotten more flexible with its Watch news partners, cutting the ad revenue it guaranteed them but in exchange, letting them air their shows elsewhere sooner so they can wring more distribution out of them, maximizing their audience and advertising revenue.

CNN also has been talking about streaming news on its own platforms. CNN has the luxury of having a global video news operation and huge audience on its own properties. That’s why Morse said CNN won’t launch a new streaming service for news, separate from parent WarnerMedia’s plans for an entertainment streaming service, to compete with the likes of Fox Nation and CBSN.

Instead, the plan is to give digital audiences content that’s differentiated from what it airs on broadcast TV, like “Full Circle,” which is more relaxed in tone than Cooper’s regular nightly broadcast.

Facebook is renewing one third of the shows it funded

Facebook has paid out millions to 21 traditional and digital news outlets including CNN, ABC News, and BuzzFeed to create a credible news hub as it faces scrutiny for letting fake news spread on the platform.

Facebook has renewed one third of the news shows it funded, including those of ABC News, Business Insider, BuzzFeed News, Fox News, Group Nine, and Univision, according to a knowledgeable source. In picking news shows for renewal, it’s favoring high performing shows that tend to be news-driven and feature known news personalities, which will inform its strategy as it expands Watch internationally.

Facebook is also getting more flexible with news partners

Publishers have had a turbulent relationship with Facebook as it’s been hard for them to make money off their content on the platform.

But Shelley Venus, global video lead for news partnerships at Facebook, underscored Facebook’s commitment to creating high quality news video content.

“What format that will take will differ over time,” she said. “But our commitment is still there — so much so that our next step was to take those key learnings and take them international and help seed premium news video in those markets.”

And CNN isn’t leaving the platform entirely. It’s planning to launch a new, still-unannounced show on Watch. As for “Full Circle,” it’ll launch on CNN’s own platforms after Labor Day.

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