Something that I very much associate with the US airport experience is the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
CNN Airport Network ending
CNN Airport Network will end operations on March 31, 2021. This curated network was around for almost 30 years, and is coming to an end for two reasons:
- The coronavirus pandemic has greatly decreased the number of people in airports
- People are consuming media differently than before, in particular due to how popular personal devices have become
The business model was that CNN would pay airports to exclusively provide this content, and in turn would make money off advertising. With the way consuming media has changed, along with reduced viewership, the economics just don’t make sense anymore.
What is CNN Airport Network, anyway?
The story of CNN Airport Network is an interesting one. CNN Airport Network is available 24/7 at 58 US airports, which includes 2,400 gates, with a purported 329 million annual viewers (I’d argue that’s way off, since presumably it includes everyone in the gate area, regardless of what they’re doing).
To be clear, this arrangement didn’t include airport lounges, so if you saw CNN in an airport lounge, that was likely just the regular channel.
What made it different than “regular” CNN?
- CNN Airport Network had special content, and a dedicated staff responsible for it
- CNN Airport Network aired roughly 48% lifestyle & entertainment, 16% live CNN, 17% business headlines, and 19% sports
- CNN Airport Network had stricter guidelines for what could be screened; for example, there would be no discussions of commercial plane crashes on the network
Before anyone makes this a liberal vs. conservative thing, this is very different than “regular” CNN.CNN Airport Network mostly had things like the weather, sports, etc., so it really wasn’t very political.
It’s not necessarily that I’m sad to see this content go because it was that compelling, but rather because it’s just something I associate with the domestic US travel experience. You know, getting off a redeye, buying a cup of coffee, and sitting in the gate area watching the weather and hearing the CNN Airport Network jingle. Then again, I guess maybe I’ll be happy to have less background noise.
CNN Airport Network will stop playing at dozens of US airports as of March 31, 2021. This is happening because the economics of the dedicated network no longer make sense, between lower passenger numbers and changes to how passengers consume content.
I’ll be curious to see what happens with TVs in these airports next. Will they play something else instead, or just be turned off?