CNN will move Chris Wallace’s interview program Who’s Talking to the HBO Max streaming service, Dylan Byers of Puck reported, following the decision by HBO and CNN parent company Warner Bros. Discovery to cancel CNN+ last month.
Moving Wallace to HBO Max is the first domino to fall since Chris Licht officially took over as CNN president last week. CNN will likely continue producing the program, perhaps with its branding, while airing it on its sister service.
Though Wallace moves to a stronger brand, there’s no evidence yet that talk and interview programs work on OTT services. As I discussed on Fox News Radio with Brian Kilmeade Thursday (at the 01:31:58 mark), some of the biggest names in media like Jon Stewart and Stephen A. Smith are trying it now, on AppleTV+ and ESPN+ respectively, and drawing minuscule audiences.
Having said that, the value in streaming talk programming is in repurposing the clips through digital platforms, like dot com, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
For example, no one watched Stewart’s The Problem With White People episode on AppleTV+, but millions of users viewed the segments on social media.
As long as Wallace can maintain a strong guest list, Discovery will be able to monetize his newsworthy clips. (Note: CNN+ did not repurpose its clips frequently or effectively, one of the service’s miscalculations.)
Meanwhile, reporters continue to name Wallace the frontrunner for the vacant 9 pm time slot on CNN, the hour Chris Cuomo used to host. But the decision to move Wallace to HBO Max could suggest CNN has other plans at 9 pm.
Moving to an uneasy primetime schedule — writing scripts during the day and not leaving the studio until around 11 pm — was already going to be a big ask for Wallace, who is 74.
So if Wallace is still in the running for primetime, it’s likely that Who’s Talking with Chris Wallace will air fewer than four days a week, like it did on CNN+, when it migrates to HBO Max.