Poor CNN. The venerable news network has taken a beating in the past few years, with small slipups and deliberate boondoggles that have tarnished its brand. From the embarrassment of its poop cruise obsession to an anchor’s sci-fi solution to the disappearance of flight MH370, the network has been looking for a way to recapture its good name and stay ahead of the digital news curve in the process. Its latest effort aims to do just that.

Last week CNN’s president Jeff Zucker announced the launch of CNNx, a platform that “takes programs on CNN (and sister channel HLN) and adds online capabilities like on-demand video viewing and links.” The ultimate goal is to create a new kind of cable television network, an interactive and multimedia experience that viewers will use on their big screens.

And it’s the kind of idea that could change the relationship between cable networks and Internet providers, as well as how they share and distribute content.


Traditional TV is dying

Well, not really—but traditional TV viewing is definitely changing. More viewers are watching video content on the go with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and on laptops. The summary of a January Business Insider report states that 40 percent of YouTube’s traffic comes from mobile devices—more than five times more traffic than just two years ago. And with 50 million people in the U.S. watching video on their mobile phones, news channels that want to follow their audiences might want to concentrate on mobile instead of TV.

But a funny thing is happening to TVs: they’re becoming big Internet machines. A study conducted by the NPD Group last year found that 45 percent of survey participants use their TVs as a “primary screen” for video streamed over the Internet. Combine that with cable subscriptions, and you have an audience that wants the ability to access paid content and interactive content. Creating a product that provides both makes sense, and CNNx attempts to offer viewers the best of both.

On-demand proves the future is now

CNNx’s on-demand feature demonstrates viewers’ desire for an exit ramp from the 24-hour news cycle highway. With social media playing an ever-increasing role in how people consume and share news, the ability to choose when and how news is consumed is becoming more important. On-demand mimics how online users read, watch and share news now.

This feature also cuts down the need for a DVR. As streaming replaces physical storage for content like music and video, making video accessible in the cloud 24/7 follows the trend. TV viewers who want to watch a CNN documentary or catch an episode of a nightly news show need only call it up on CNNx—no need to use up space on their cable boxes.

If CNNx is successful, what could it mean for other cable news networks? It could mean that partnerships with Internet-based news organizations would give them an opportunity to reach more viewers and readers with up-to-date content.

It could also mean that cable news networks will begin to move into Internet-based news territory, beefing up their website presence and integrating it with their cable presence. The more cable and Internet companies merge, the more their content will merge as well—and that could revolutionize the way cable networks reach their audiences.

For now, though, CNNx is an experiment in hybrid content distribution. The network needs a win—and this could be the project that provides it.

Image credit: