Ex-staffers at CNN+, who were fired last month after the month-old streaming service was abruptly shut down, got gift boxes the following week that were filled with CNN+ swag, according to a report.
CNN’s new parent company Warner Bros. Discovery delivered a “gut punch” to the laid-off employees as it “mistakenly” mailed out the gifts to employees who had been fired a week earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The boxes included branded gear from pens to food containers, as well as items such as a popcorn maker and headphones, the publication reported, adding that some of the boxes included welcome notes.
“This is an incredible time to be part of CNN,” one note said. “Build relationships and take time to connect with colleagues and learn so that you make the most of your time here.”
CNN told the Journal that the gifts were sent out by accident, but the ill-timed gesture rubbed salt into an already raw wound.
Roughly 400 staffers were recruited to work for CNN’s new streaming service, a startup that cost $300 million to get off the ground before it was shuttered by new owners within a month of its launch.
After AT&T spun off WarnerMedia in a $43 billion merger with Discovery to form Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s expensive streaming service was one of the first things new management examined as the company looked to shore up costs.
CEO David Zaslav decided to kill CNN+ after learning the $5.99-a-month service signed up roughly 150,000 subscribers in its first few weeks and was being watched by between 5,000 and 10,000 people at any given moment, according to reports.
The numbers were a bad sign, even though CNN employees argued that CNN+ was on track to hit internal targets of 2 million US subscribers in the first year, and that the plug was pulled too soon.
Discovery and WarnerMedia completed their merger on Friday, April 8, and on April 14, Zaslav and top brass decided to end CNN+, the Journal reported. Two days later, Chris Licht, the new head of CNN, addressed some 400 employees at the network’s New York City offices to break the news of the streaming service’s closure.
“This is a uniquely sh–ty situation,” Licht said at the time.
The new exec was brought in to replace Jeff Zucker, who wanted to launch CNN+ at the end of March. Zucker never got the opportunity to see his final product get off the ground because he resigned in early February after his years-long relationship with chief marketing officer Allison Gollust became public.
The last day of operations for CNN+ was April 28 and according to sources, CNN+ logos were removed from sight.
A massive CNN+ sculpture was taken out of the building and replaced with one for HBO Max, the company’s main streaming service, staffers said.