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CNN’s deal to acquire a minority stake in Internet Broadcasting Systems came close to completely obscuring a major shift in the network’s video strategy. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution went into detail.) Premium service Pipeline will disappear as a brand at the end of June, some 18 months after it started in private beta and more than two years after CNN execs said they would try a hybrid free-premium approach. No word on the actual number of subscribers for the premium multi-stream offering. On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, it drew 1.2 million unique visitors; I gather it would be safe to say the number of paying subs was lower than that. How much lower? Good question. Those who are paying should get a notice next week; annual fees will be refunded on a pro-rated basis.
The brand will dissolve but the multiple live streams will remain, probably not ad supported at the start. On-demand video and packages will be ad supported. One of the reasons given for going premium in 2005 was the cost of broadband delivery. Those costs have dropped while the ability to make money through advertising has increased. CNN serves some 90 million free videos a month, a three-fold increase in the past year, according to the network.
Turner Broadcasting has had mixed success with premium broadband. The Time Warner unit has tried various mixes with GameTap but says it’s succeeding with premium sports subs. Pipeline wasn’t the first effort at charging for news video; the network sold subscriptions for video and was part of RealNetworks’ content aggregation efforts.