CNN recently announced an investment of US$20 million globally to build its international, mobile and online video business. The company is also experimenting with short-form content via platforms such as Snapchat and Line.
Morse said CNN’s presence on messaging platforms was driven simply by wanting to be “ubiquitous” around the world. Experimentation and listening to audiences has proved critical on those platforms, he added: CNN has moved from a feature-led approach to a focus on hard news.
Currently though, it’s fair to say that CNN is still a traditional broadcaster. Morse said the company had “barely begun to scratch the surface of what we might do” in the digital space. But as it seeks to change, Morse said Asia, and in particular Japan, is “probably more important than any other region in the world”.
Morse said CNN would focus on developing different areas depending on the market in Asia. Japan and Korea would be important for video, he said. In other countries such as Indonesia, mobile would be the key platform.
“It’s not a case of trying to do everything, but focusing on wherever you can make a difference," Morse said. "I’m intrigued by the notion that we can launch an app for a pan-regional experience and then categorise it by country.”
CNN’s Tokyo bureau is small editorially, but Morse said it retained a “fairly sizeable commercial operation” and was attractive for development given the growth of digital content consumption in Japan.
He said CNN Digital Studios, CNN Money, CNN Style and The Great Big Story (a platform launched last year to compete with the likes of Buzzfeed and Vice) were all properties he was considering expanding in Japan.
The Great Big Story is distinct from the CNN brand and targets a millennial audience. Morse said it attracts around 40 million unique visitors a month, aged 27 on average. It offers advertisers native content rather than pre-roll video or banner advertising. Clients include GE and HPE.
Morse said extending the network to Japan and the rest of the world was “a huge priority” for CNN. He also said he believes Japan is underrepresented in global media coverage.
“It gets referenced more often in terms of how it relates to other countries,” he said. “But I think Americans are starting to pay attention to Japan in a way they hadn’t before…as a business player, it’s got a bit of its swagger back.”