CNN is considering Gayle King and Charles Barkley to host a weekly primetime show in an effort to improve the network’s nighttime ratings, according to chairman and CEO Chris Licht.
According to The Wall Street Journal, negotiations with King are nearing completion, but sources have indicated that discussions continue with both parties.
The 9 PM ET primetime hour on cable news has been seeking a permanent host to boost viewership since Chris Cuomo was fired in December, 2021. The time slot is known for being highly competitive.
CNN is considering selecting King and Barkley for a time slot which is unusual as the network typically schedules a five-night-a-week personality during primetime hours. The network has reached to around two dozen individuals for filling at least one night of the week in that time slot, and plans to fill the other nights with special events such as town halls and interviews with the correspondents of the network.
Licht has expressed his belief that competition in primetime extends beyond television, encompassing all types of media and entertainment vying for viewership. Barkley, who recently renewed his contract with Warner Bros. Discovery, has acknowledged discussions with the network regarding a potential show featuring King.
CNN has recently tried out special programming during a particular timeslot, but the ratings have not been consistently high. The network has noted that they have not yet fully advertised these events, which have included a town hall with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and an interview with Jason Sudeikis conducted by Jake Tapper.
In February of 2022, all three cable news networks experienced a decline in primetime ratings, with CNN seeing a steeper decline than the others. According to Nielsen, CNN averaged 587,000 viewers, a 24% decrease from the previous year. In the 25-54 demographic, CNN averaged 122,000 viewers, a 42% decrease, which was slightly higher than MSNBC’s average of 119,000 viewers, a 15% decrease.
Licht was executive producer of CBS This Morning and worked closely with King. In 2011, he oversaw the show’s revamp with King, Rose, and O’Donnell. King renewed her contract with CBS last year to remain on CBS Mornings. It’s not uncommon to do double duty on different networks, as Anderson Cooper does as a 60 Minutes correspondent and CNN anchor of his weeknight show and upcoming Sunday night series.