So just how toxic is CNN as a media (it would be a stretch to call them “news”) company in 2023?
Apparently, they are so toxic that not even one of the most beloved living NBA legends this side of Michael Jeffrey Jordan can help with the network’s flagging ratings.
Barkley, the former star Philadelphia 76er, Phoenix Sun and Houston Rocket, has built quite a brand for himself in his post-playing days for being an outspoken voice unafraid of angering both the left and right.
CNN was clearly banking on that brand paying dividends in terms of viewership for some time, given Barkley opened up that he was being courted by the network way back in February.
That courtship clearly went according to plan for CNN, as Barkley and co-host Gayle King debuted the first episode of “King Charles” on Wednesday (the show was announced in April).
However, the fact that it debuted appeared to be the only thing that went to plan for the embattled news network.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “King Charles” drew a paltry 501,000 viewers for the show’s debut — a figure that was good for a “distant” third-place finish.
Now, a third-place finish isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se, especially with cable news heavyweight Fox News still on the airwaves (yes, even a diminished, post-Tucker Carlson Fox News consistently beats its cable peers).
But the added context from THR isn’t going to make anyone involved with “King Charles” feel any better.
First, THR noted that the debut episode co-starring Barkley and King wasn’t “really moving the needle from CNN’s recent averages in the hour.”
So, the big (and surely expensive) name wasn’t “moving the needle” for CNN. Not a great sign, to say the least.
Second, THR added even more context to the context, and in one sense, “King Charles” did technically have a historic debut.
It just made the wrong kind of history as the show brought in “the smallest audience of any of CNN’s primetime debuts this year.”
Indeed, the debut of Abby Phillips’ “NewsNight” drew 645,000 viewers in October, the debut of “The Source With Kaitlan Collins” drew 540,000 people in July, and “Laura Coates Live” debuted to 535,000 viewers in October.
Oh, and to circle back to that “distant” third-place finish … even that adjective might be underselling it.
“King Charles” was competing with MSNBC’s “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” and Fox News’ “Gutfeld!” and it wasn’t even close.
MSNBC’s show drew in 1.57 million viewers, according to THR. “Gutfeld!” didn’t have ratings readily available, but typically draws in two million viewers.
And that first-second-third finish actually reflects the grander November primetime trend — which is undoubtedly bad news for CNN.
According to Deadline, Fox News averaged 1.73 million viewers in primetime, MSNBC averaged 1.136 million viewers, and CNN — just like “King Charles” — finished in a distant third by averaging just 540,000 viewers.
Yet, it’s not all good news for the news networks.
Fox News’ viewership was down 29 percent year-over-year, MSNBC was down 5 percent, and CNN was down 28 percent.
Ironically enough, that last tidbit might actually be the smallest of silver linings for the beleaguered CNN because the numbers speak for themselves — cable news, as a whole, is at an all-time low in terms of public perception, and the viewership reinforces that.
TV Ratings: CNN’s ‘King Charles’ Premiere Flops https://t.co/dtukyQffR1
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) November 30, 2023
For that reason, CNN can find the smallest modicum of comfort in the fact that “King Charles” flopped: Everything is sort of flopping these days.
But can you blame the average American consumer for turning that television knob off?
Cable news was always headed for this cliff the instant Tucker Carlson — perhaps one of the few voices brave enough to challenge the establishment media on a consistent basis — was unceremoniously ousted from Fox News back in April.
If Fox News is the emperor of cable news (which it is), Carlson’s firing was the proverbial revelation about the emperor’s clothes.
And that ripple effect is clearly being felt all across cable news … and not even “King Charles” appears to be able to stem that tide.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.