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CNN Pivots Strategy on CNNgo to Add Free Original Programming (EXCLUSIVE)

Tech docu-series 'Mostly Human' set to premiere March 12

CNN three years ago launched CNNgo as a digital-streaming extension to its core TV service — available only to pay-TV subscribers.

Now the Turner-owned news cabler is shfiting gears to expand CNNgo’s reach to “cord-nevers” with longer-form original productions that are free to anyone, whether or not they have a cable or satellite TV subscription.

CNN on March 12 will debut its first CNNgo original: “Mostly Human,” a six-part half-hour investigative series hosted by journalist Laurie Segall exploring the increasingly complex relationship between people and technology — think “Black Mirror” in real life. The show is the first of slate of originals for CNNgo, designed to boost viewing on the digital platform and give CNN a new opportunity to sell ads and sponsorships.

“We’re reimagining what CNNgo is,” said Andrew Morse, executive VP of editorial for CNN U.S. and GM of CNN Digital Worldwide.

When it launched in 2014, originally called “CNNx,” it was essentially a TV Everywhere companion to the live network populated with on-demand, short-form topical news clips. “Now we want to harness this powerful digital platform for an audience that’s hungry for exclusive content,” said Morse.

“Mostly Human” is a long-form series that could have found a home on digital-video distributors interested in exclusive programming like Netflix, Hulu, Facebook or YouTube, according to Morse. In fact, he said, CNN might decide to air the CNNgo originals on the linear TV channel, but he said that’s not the goal: “It’s not an incubator for television. This is not about TV.” The news network plans to announce additional original productions in the next month.

In January 2017, the CNNgo service had 1.3 million monthly users. Last year, CNNgo streamed 69.7 million hours of authenticated video content, up 205% over 2015. Morse sees an opportunity to grow the audience and time spent viewing with the originals push.

“Mostly Human,” which CNN commissioned from New York-based BFD Productions, will be released all at once next week. (The network doesn’t have any ad deals lined up for the show at this point.) The segments include “Dead, IRL,” about a woman who creates a digital version of her best friend after he dies using his texts, tweets and Facebook posts; “I Love You, Bot,” about people who fall in love with robots and sex dolls; and “Hacker Down: ISIS’ Twitter Star,” about the life and death of Junaid Hussain, who became the face of the terror organization on social media.

Series host Segall previously produced short-form digital series for CNN, including “Sex, Drugs & Silicon Valley,” “Revenge Porn,” and “Secret Lives of Superhero Hackers.” Her “Mostly Human” series was a natural fit to be the first CNNgo original, Morse said, given the subject’s appeal to a digital-first audience.

CNNgo is available on CNN.com, iOS and Android apps, and on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV. On the web, CNNgo users spent an average of 98 minutes each with the service in January, but usage is higher on connected-TV platforms: 140 minutes on average per user on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and 123 minutes on average for the fourth-generation Apple TV.

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