CNN’s ‘King Charles’ premiere with Gayle King and Charles Barkley is a ratings flop

CNN’s ‘King Charles’ premiere with Gayle King and Charles Barkley is a ratings flop

CNN’s “King Charles,” the new weekly show hosted by Gayle King and Charles Barkley, flopped in its debut broadcast, ranking among the lowest-rated CNN primetime show premieres over the past decade. 

The long-hyped premiere of the new weekly primetime series, which aired Wednesday at 10 pm, drew just 501,000 viewers, according to same-day Nielsen ratings.

It finished a distant third among the biggest cable news channels in total viewers, ranking as the smallest of any of CNN’s primetime debuts this year.

“King Charles” was the brainchild of Chris Licht, the former CNN CEO, who was brought in to revamp the network’s struggling daytime and primetime lineups.

But Licht was ousted after a scathing magazine profile alienated staffers and key senior figures at the network who called for his head.

Licht’s replacement, Mark Thompson, has yet to announce any major changes as CNN continues to trail Fox News and MSNBC in the ratings.

“King Charles” was meant to take on a late night vibe, pairing “CBS Mornings” anchor King and NBA Hall of Famer and analyst Barkley to discus the news and culture while taking calls.


‘King Charles’ flopped in the ratings, ranking the show as one of the lowest-rated CNN primetime show premiere in at least a decade. CNN

The pre-taped show on Wednesday, included a jokey call from Barkley’s “Inside the NBA” co-host Shaquille O’Neal, which wasn’t enough to lift ratings.

The show came in well behind MSNBC’s “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” with 1.6 million total viewers, although it attracted 139,000 viewers in the key demographic of adults aged 25 to 54 versus O’Donnell’s show, which brought in just 132,000 demo viewers.

Ratings for “Gutfeld!” on Fox News totaled 2.2 million and 241,000 viewers in the demo.

CNN has been trying to dig itself out of last place and has rejiggered its primetime lineup this year with new hosts at 9 pm, 10 pm and 11 pm slots.


King and Barkley debuted their news and culture-focused late night show on Wednesday at 10 pm.

“King Charles” wasn’t able to move the needle, however, trailing a series of notable CNN primetime premieres over the years. They include “Laura Coates Live” and “NewsNight”–both of which debuted in October– with 535,000 and 645,00 total viewers, respectively.

It also trailed “The Source with Kaitlan Collins,” which premiered at 9 pm in July with 540,000 viewers.

Looking back, “King Charles” had a smaller audience than Don Lemon’s primetime show, which garnered 944,000 total viewers when it debuted in May 2021, Chris Cuomo’s 2017 primetime show with 1.5 million viewers and the 2011 premiere of “Erin Burnett Outfront” with 535,000 viewers.

A rep from CNN did not comment specifically on “King Charles’” lackluster debut, but said the show “performed competitively well in the demo, which has been CNN’s general trend.”

The rep also noted that “King Charles” had the youngest median viewer age at 67 of any 10 pm cable news show Wednesday. Fox News had a median age of 68, while MSNBC’s median viewer in that hour was 76.

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