CNN Grounds Its Long-Running Airport Network

CNN Airport, a long-running out-of-home media operation that became an integral part of the traveling experience for people flying through Chicago’s O’Hare, Dallas’ Love Field or even Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, is shutting down, the victim of shifts in consumer behavior that are moving more quickly than a Boeing 737.

CNN said the operation, which aired a mix of news from CNN and snippets from other WarnerMedia networks in 58 different airports in the U.S., would close as of March 31.

“The steep decline in airport traffic because of  COVID-19, coupled with all of the new ways that people are consuming content on their personal devices, has lessened the need for the CNN Airport Network and we had to make the very difficult decision to end its operation,” the AT&T unit said in a statement.

This is the second CNN operation to be shuttered in the past five months. The company scuttled its Great Big Story video unit in September.

Launched initially in 1991 and billed as CNN’s Airport Network, the operation served as a way to keep the cable-news outlet in front of consumers even when they couldn’t watch traditional TV — and yet might be in a situation where keeping up with the news was critical. Over the years, CNN’s presence in airport terminals became so ubiquitous that in 2018, Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, tried to prod the Federal Communications Commission to have other companies’ content placed in transportation hubs.

CNN’s media offering let local merchants and transportation authorities place their own messages on the service, which also carried national commercials, news segments and weather and sports updates. Some things were never shown, including footage of commercial aviation crashes and content not appropriate for family viewing.

Even a media offering with little obvious competition was being challenged by a new and growing rival. Over the years, airport executives began to notice travelers were using airport Wi-Fi connections to stream video choices of their own. Suddenly, a captive audience was freed.

“Having to say goodbye to such a beloved brand is not easy,” said Jeff Zucker, CNN Worldwide’s president, in a statement. “I want to thank our friends and colleagues who have contributed to its success and to celebrate the fact that for 30 years, the CNN Airport Network has kept millions of domestic travelers informed. It also became an iconic part of the traveling experience in this country. I am sure most of us have a story to tell about which airport we were at when we first learned of a major news event. Be proud that we had a hand in sharing some incredible stories with many millions of people over the past three decades.”



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