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TV Ratings: CNN’s ‘King Charles’ Premiere Flops

The reign of King Charles — the CNN show, not the British monarch — began rather quietly Wednesday.

The weekly show, hosted by Gayle King and Charles Barkley, drew just 486,000 viewers for its debut, according to Nielsen fast national ratings. It finished a distant third among the biggest cable news channels and didn’t really moving the needle from CNN’s recent averages in the hour. In fact, it ranks as the smallest audience of any of CNN’s primetime debuts this year.

King Charles was one of the last big moves of the brief Chris Licht era at CNN. The Warner Bros. Discovery-owned network announced the show in late April — six weeks before Licht was let go following a profile in The Atlantic that was poorly received among network staffers. (Mark Thompson became CEO of CNN in October.)

The show pairs CBS Mornings anchor King and NBA Hall of Famer and analyst Barkley to discuss news and culture and take calls — including a jokey one Wednesday from Barkley’s Inside the NBA co-host Shaquille O’Neal. King Charles is pretaped, unlike the rest of CNN’s primetime slate, which means that King and Barkley won’t be able to discuss breaking news during the hour. It also received a fairly light promotional push on the network.

As for the ratings, the 486,000 viewers for King Charles is slightly ahead of CNN’s November average at 10 p.m. weeknights, where Abby Phillip hosts CNN NewsNight. That show averaged 474,000 viewers in November (excluding election coverage on Nov. 7, analysis of a Republican primary debate on Nov. 8 and Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week). King Charles drew 132,000 viewers in the key news demographic of adults 25-54, a little ahead of NewsNight’s November average of 123,000.

Phillip’s NewsNight debut in October brought in 645,000 viewers. The Source With Kaitlan Collins drew 540,000 people in July, and 11 p.m. show Laura Coates Live opened to 535,000 viewers on Oct. 9.

MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell averaged 1.57 million viewers Wednesday opposite the King Charles premiere. Ratings for Gutfeld! on Fox News weren’t immediately available; it typically draws about 2 million viewers.

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