The viewers have spoken, giving CNN a resounding thumbs down on its newest networking adventure starring former NBA star and anti-Trumper Charles Barkley.
Ratings for “King Charles,” a star-studded hour featuring Barkley and co-host Gayle King, has lost more than 20% of its viewers since premiering in January. Nielsen ratings show the Wednesday night experiment began with half a million viewers, with just 139,000 between the key ages of 25 and 54. Since January 31st those numbers have dropped precipitously, according to Fox News: total viewership is down to 400,000 with a measly 89,000 in the show’s critical advertising demographic, a 36% drop in just 10 days.
The idea of “King Charles” was first proposed by Chris Licht, the former CEO who was ousted amid turbulence as the network tried to shift away from its anti-Trump slant. Believing Charles would be a key asset, Licht tapped him based on his performance as a popular sports analyst for TNT, CNN’s sister network.
However, the idea of “jumping on the Titanic” was not initially appealing to Barkley, who openly stated he was not looking for new employment opportunities and described the atmosphere at CNN as a “s***show” while Licht was courting him. Barkley refused to work weeknights, forcing Licht to agree to just one programming night per week.
Billed as a cultural hour, Barkley and King invite celebrities and media figures outside the traditional mold of CNN’s politics-heavy programming. Recent guests like rapper Fat Joe and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr joined in, as did actors Billy Crystal, Niecy Nash, Keegan-Michael Key and Corey Hawkins while serving as rotating guests. Occasionally, King and Barkley made it to current events, speaking once with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The network recently launched a complete revamping of its primetime lineup, tapping reporter Kaitlan Collins for a primetime slot following her raucous interview with former President Donald Trump. Not long before, the network fired longtime anchor Don Lemon, a frequent Trump critic who antagonized his administration for years in a transparent effort to stoke anti-Trump sentiment into ratings gold. The network has floundered while President Trump ran his own programming to counter a recent CNN-sponsored GOP debate.
CNN’s latest troubles come just months after the network completed its worst ratings cycle in history. In January, CNN averaged 444,000 viewers in prime time, 93,000 in the important 25-54 demographic, and 417,000 in viewers and 80,000 in the demo for total day. This marks the first time since May 2014 that the network failed to reach 450,000 viewers.
In comparison, Fox News attracted 1.4 million viewers and 176,000 in the demo while MSNBC drew 629,000 viewers and 69,000 in the demo during the same period. Fox News’ prime-time viewership was 2 million with 256,000 in the demo and MSNBC had 943,000 viewers and 91,000 in the demo.
Worryingly, Licht’s flagship program, “CNN This Morning,” also saw its lowest ratings since its launch just three months ago, averaging only 331,000 viewers. Meanwhile, “Fox & Friends” drew nearly 1 million viewers and “Morning Joe” had 760,000 viewers.
The network’s revamp will feature a new daytime lineup with anchor teams that aim to bring a new perspective to daytime programming through two new shows. John Berman, Kate Bolduan, and Sara Sidner will anchor a 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Eastern weekday block from CNN’s New York studios. The 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Eastern show will be hosted by Brianna Keilar, Boris Sanchez, and Jim Sciutto.