CNN Airport Network Ending March 31, 2021

Filed Under: Media

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.

Bottom line

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?

  1. This is good news. Nothing worse than a long layover in a US airport and there’s no escaping the repetitive opinionated talking heads of CNN no matter where you go.

  2. Hearing the Anthony Bourdain “Parts Unknown” theme song in the boarding area before heading off to a far flung destination would always put a big smile on my face.

  3. Glad to hear! The blaring sound is the most annoying thing at the airport. Did they never learn about closed captioning? Also the change in content from 24/7 news to simulcasting the panels of talking heads from regular CNN during much of the PM hours has made fewer people trust them.

  4. CNN actually has Democrats and Republicans on most of their panels. Far more “fair and balanced” than their competitor who has the audacity to actually use that phrase in their marketing.

  5. CNN Airport used to be more like CNN Headline News, but nowadays it’s been showing CNN primetime commentaries at night. Given the reputation of CNN these days compared to the 1990s, I think less than 5% of the passengers even looked at them these days. I’d rather watch live sports. Airports should provide RELIABLE high speed wifi so that passengers can watch whatever they want.

  6. This is good news. I’m not complaining about CNN from a political perspective. Just would like a little less noise in the terminal. Well actually a lot less noise would be great.

  7. Great. CNN isn’t news, it’s just hysteria 24/7.

    Hope they replace it with blank screens, or images of people staring at paint drying.
    Both would be better for America than CNN.

  8. Thank god. Hearing these morons rattle on with the panic/fear porn is the worse. When the ACs were closed in 2020 sitting at the gate listening to the propaganda was nearly unbearable.


  10. And, of course, the MAGA crowd makes into a political issue even though this was just fluff content.

    (Not like Lindsey Graham, Donny’s fluffer, mind you.)

  11. As long as it’s not replaced with Fox News, MSNBC, and others, I think I will be okay seeing less cable news in the airport. Most of the time it wasn’t even informative.

    Would be cool to have the Weather Channel on (I’m also a weather geek so I am biased).

  12. I miss CNN Headline News, which used to be a continuous almost identical 30 minute news broadcasts. After 30 minutes, they’d repeat almost the same news but updated. There was no left wing or right wing. Now CNN is less reliable and more biased than foreign broadcasts BBC, France 24, CNA (Singapore), etc.

  13. CNN no longer shows actual news, it’s just talking heads and shrills for the D’s.

    They should just show something like Travel Channel.

  14. Awesome news, all they did was show sensationalized headlines I much rather watch the weather channel than the news at the gate or even better, sports games. MSY had all their gate TVs tuned in to NFL games on Sunday.

  15. Seemed like the only time CNN was turned off in the gate area was right after a plane crash. I was flying out of SEA the morning AA 587 was lost just after taking off from JFK. It wasn’t long after 9/11 and the first news reports of the crash put a scare in a lot of us.

  16. Adios dumb news. How cool would it be if they used the TV’s to run promos for the destination of the nearest gate??? How stoked would you be if there was featurettes on Cenotes before flying to CUN? The Jazz festival before heading to MSY? Live music before BNA? I’d love it.

  17. Great news (excuse the pun)! Airports just became a little less stressful and negative. Wonder how dems are going to force their partisan message of hate and division on to innocent travelers now? lol.

  18. Those screens will probably carry programmatic advertising in the future, “decorated” with some general content like weather, news overviews, airport information etc.
    Connecting with passenger and flights data, these screens will become adressable individually or in clusters, e.g. different contents and advertising for flights full of business people in comparison to leisure travel.
    Interesting oppotunities if you are into digital out of home advertising

  19. This is a really great development and surprised it took this long to get rid of the CNN Airport Network, which was nothing more than irritating, repetitive, gate area noise pollution. With smartphones, tablets, etc…this service could have and should have been ended long ago.

  20. I’m glad to see this go. It’s just SO LOUD in the terminal, really added nothing, and found it to be utterly annoying. Dont replace it with anything!

  21. In 2003, I took my first cross country mileage run to Seattle. Being young, cheap and invincible, I stayed in the airport overnight. I arrived at midnight and was scheduled out at 6:04am. It was quickly apparent there were limited places to get comfortable, but at least it was really quiet. After a few hours I was in a good spot and starting to fall asleep. At 3am Pacific – 6am Eastern – the CNN Airport TVs turned on at full volume, shattering the quiet morning. I never stayed in an airport overnight again.

  22. I’ve seen CNN on the screens at airports but I’ve never watched it.

    In this era of smart phones, tablets and wifi there is no need for airport television, CNN or otherwise.

  23. Agree with @Lou. The only time I really truly enjoyed it was when an Anthony Bourdain episode came on where he traveled to Vietnam – as I was departing on my first flight to… Vietnam! I took it as a great omen.

  24. outstanding… And to counter those above. how about a novel idea? Keep news OUT of public areas including airport gates.

    Airports are stressful enough… throwing partisan commentary on top of it only adds to the stress.

    No one traveling through an airport is lacking for connectivity with what is going on in the world.

    It was absolutely notable that the new Salt Lake City terminal does not have CNN airport in the gate areas. The concourse was notably quieter because people aren’t trying to talk over TV.

    Hopefully a whole lot of airports will rip the TV monitors out of the gate areas.

  25. I’m glad, and I hope they get CBSN

    Those emotional outburst, snaps, etc.. from the anchors in CNN (ie Don Lemon) is not the type of news I’m used from my youth. It is more of opinion current news, than news itself.

    I enjoy more CBSN style, looks more professional, old style news

  26. The people who don’t have tablets or smartphones and might actually watch news at the gate probably fall more in to the Fox/OAN/Newsmax camp anyway,

  27. Hey @Brady – don’t worry. I’ll be the guy sitting behind you at the gate blasting it on my ipad without headphones. 🙂

    Just kidding but seriously – why is every so friggen partisan about a fluff piece? So many of you need so much therapy!

  28. It won’t be missed. Besides how is this even relevant everyone in airports stare at their phones and tablets while seated or walking through the terminals.

  29. Good riddance. CNN long ago stopped being a legitimate news organization and is now nothing more than a political arm of the Democratic Party!!

  30. Funny how all the right-wingers in this thread just complain about CNN – likely the same ones complaining about the legitimacy of the election.

    And of course, they don’t offer a more “truthful” news channel at all, just not CNN. Likely because it doesn’t exist.

    The truth hurts when you live in your alternative reality.

  31. This is great news! What could be worse than sitting in ATL between flights – especially when you have a long layover or your flight was just cancelled – and having the constant drub of news and talking heads droning in the background? Especially when you’re trying to read a book or catch a few winks.

    TBH it often felt a bit like 1984: news constantly blaring everywhere, inescapably.

    Sooooo glad CNN Airport is going away! More peace and quiet, please…

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