Scene: It’s 2030. You just wrapped up a brutal day of work, and are finally settling onto your couch with an ice cold beverage and “The Batman 17” all ready to play on the streaming service Max. Despite continuing Hollywood’s horrid inability to come up with something original, you’re enjoying the flick. It’s still Batman, after all. But just as the movie is about to reach its action-packed crescendo, your streaming app pauses the movie to warn you: “Mostly peaceful riots have erupted near you after a career criminal has successfully attained martyrdom. Would you like to watch these riots on Jim Acosta Live?” Tragically, this dystopian scenario in which CNN, of all networks, has its leftist tendrils slowly tightening its grip on your leisure time, may actually not be that far off. According to a new report from Variety, Max (formerly HBO Max) will soon house a new “hub” within it: CNN Max. And while the name may be new, the core conceit of it is not. CNN Max is, effectively, a rebrand of the failed CNN+ experiment that fizzled out in late 2022. CNN Max is set to debut on Sept. 27, and “would focus initially on breaking news,” according to Variety. Programming would feature CNN stalwarts like the aforementioned Acosta, host Jim Sciutto and others. That, in and of itself, is hardly obtrusive. This writer has less than zero interest in Max’s HGTV hub, but its existence hardly detracts from the all-important user experience. Viewers can typically ignore whatever hubs they don’t want to pay attention to — but to ensure that CNN Max does not become the new CNN+, there might be a diabolical new wrinkle with this news arm of the streaming app. Variety’s Brian Steinberg reports: “CNN Max is likely to evolve over time. Among the features the company will try out are ways of alerting Max viewers to breaking news while they are watching something else on the service, whether it be an HBO series, a Turner Classic Movies selection or an old episode of Food Network’s ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.'” That is, bluntly put, a terrible idea. Especially with the news — regardless of whether it’s right- or left-leaning. Because if there’s one thing people do not want to be reminded of while watching a vigilante dressed like a flying rodent battle a diabolical clown, it’s the real world. Look, everyone handles escapism differently. Some people dive into a good book (or, perhaps, even The Good Book), others play video games, some listen to or make music and some like to relax and watch a good show/movie. But to varying degrees, people need some semblance of a break from the harsh realities of everyday life (particularly in Joe Biden’s America), regardless of how that may come about. Interrupting that important mental health time, particularly with mentally draining news, is not something that anyone but the most ardent of news junkies needs. (And the argument could just as easily be made that news junkies are the last people who need this feature.) And if you have any questions about the ubiquity of this discernment, look no further than the wide-ranging backlash this purported new feature has engendered. Everyone, from the right-leaning Breitbart to the left-leaning UpRoxx (and all manner of apolitical entities in between), derided this decision as aggressively invasive and exceptionally unnecessary. And you know that when you’re unifying the right and left, you’ve really stepped in it. A couple key caveats worth mentioning:
- This “feature” (read: bug) will likely not launch in September alongside CNN Max. There is currently no set date for the launch or beta testing of this feature, nor is there any word on the ability to opt out of these CNN updates.
- According to tech outlet IndieWire, there is a chance this is much ado about nothing. Not only does the Max app not have this “breaking news” functionality natively (meaning the app’s engineers are about to put in some serious crunch), IndieWire cites an unnamed source who says that this new feature would only be used in the most extraordinary of circumstances — like a massive terrorist attack.