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.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • fundo logo

    Google‘s Area 120 Is Testing Fundo, a Crowdfunding Service for Creators (EXCLUSIVE)

    Google’s skunkworks lab Area 120 has been quietly testing an events-centric crowdfunding service for YouTubers, Variety has learned. Called Fundo, the service allows creators to invite their fans to virtual meet & greet sessions and other paid online events. A Google spokesperson confirmed the testing in a statement provided to Variety: “One of the many [...]

  • Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green

    Sam Barlow's 'Telling Lies' Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

    After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage. The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Will Stop Letting Copyright Holders Seize Revenue via Manual Claims on Very Short Music Clips

    YouTube is pushing back against overzealous copyright policing by music companies. Starting in mid-September, the video giant will forbid copyright holders from making manual claims to commandeer revenue generated by YouTube videos that include very short music clips (e.g., five seconds of a song) or “unintentional” music (like music from passing cars). “One concerning trend [...]

  • Chelsea Handler memoir book buy online

    Chelsea Handler Bonds With Alexa in iHeartRadio Smart Speaker Promo

    iHeartRadio has teamed up with Amazon to promote Chelsea Handler’s podcast “Life Will Be The Death Of Me.” Beginning this Thursday, users of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and other devices with Alexa built-in can opt to get their mornings started with Handler cracking jokes and exchanging banter with the smart assistant. Users simply have to [...]

  • David Messinger, Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Hires CAA Veteran David Messinger as CMO

    Activision Blizzard tapped David Messinger, a former 15-plus-year veteran of CAA, as its first corporate-wide chief marketing officer. Messinger, based in Santa Monica, reports to Coddy Johnson, Activision Blizzard’s president and COO. It’s the first time the video-game company has appointed a CMO who will oversee the global marketing operations across all of Activision Blizzard [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content