CNN grounds Airport Network after 30 years, citing pandemic and streaming

Security guards walk past the entrance to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. CNN is owned by Time Warner Inc., which is pursuing a sale to AT&T.
Security guards walk past the entrance to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

CNN Airport Network — the service that beamed the cable news channel's content into terminal waiting areas throughout the country — is shutting down March 31.

The end of the service launched in 1990 was announced Tuesday in a staff memo from CNN President Jeff Zucker.

He said the decline in airline passenger traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of available streaming news video on mobile phones and other internet-connected devices led to the decision.

The ad-supported CNN Airport Network was no longer a profitable operation for the WarnerMedia unit, according to people briefed on the matter who were not authorized to comment publicly. About two dozen employees based in CNN's Atlanta headquarters will lose their jobs with the closure.

CNN Airport Network was shown on 1,800 screens in 54 airports across the U.S. and Bermuda. The customized service showed segments from CNN and other Turner channels such as HLN and TNT.

Coverage of air disasters and stories not appropriate for viewing by children were kept off the service.

The network helped give CNN brand recognition to a captive audience, even as the company faced new competition from cable competitors Fox News and MSNBC. Exposure to international travelers also helped build CNN's reputation as a worldwide news source.

"Having to say goodbye to such a beloved brand is not easy," Zucker said in his memo. "It also became an iconic part of the traveling experience in this country."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.