Steve Kerr on CNN's "King Charles" with Charles Barkley and Gayle King. Steve Kerr on CNN’s “King Charles” with Charles Barkley and Gayle King. (Awful Announcing on Twitter.)

Back in February, reports emerged of CNN planning a show with Charles Barkley and Gayle King. That show was officially announced in April, given the name of King Charles, and set for a fall launch. But that approval came only six weeks before CEO Chris Licht was let go, and there were discussions over the summer of people telling Barkley to “abort” amidst wider CNN turmoil.

The show was confirmed as part of CNN’s fall lineup in August, but only with “later this fall,” “as a limited series,” and with a slot of Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET. It actually launched Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET., and the ratings weren’t great.

As per Nielsen, King Charles averaged 501,000 viewers. That’s up from the 486,000 it posted in Nielsen fast nationals, but only slightly ahead of the 474,000 November average for the Abby Phillip-hosted CNN NewsNight, which usually airs weeknights in that slot. And it was well behind the offerings on Fox News and MSNBC in total viewers, but did post a decent key demographic number. Here’s more on that from Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter:

[King Charles] finished a distant third among the biggest cable news channels in total viewers 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 drew 139,000 viewers in the key news demographic of adults 25-54, also 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 — but trailed CNN in the demo by about 7,000 viewers. Ratings for Gutfeld! on Fox News weren’t immediately available; it typically draws about 2 million viewers.

…CNN also notes that King Charles had the youngest median viewer age (67) of any 10 p.m. cable news show Wednesday. Fox News had a median age of 73, while MSNBC’s median viewer in that hour was 76.

The numbers here for King Charles aren’t necessarily a crisis at this point, especially with them being comparable to what CNN was drawing in that timeslot. And the younger audience is promising, and many shows do take time to find an overall audience. But this certainly wasn’t a spectacular debut for an anticipated big swing from CNN.

And the numbers are perhaps more concerning still with the CEO who set up this show no longer there, and with so much turmoil at the network this year. As with new athletic directors or general managers and coaches, new network CEOs sometimes want to put their own stamp on programming quickly. Mark Thompson took the CNN CEO role in October, and it’s not yet clear what he thinks of King Charles.

There are also some challenges for King Charles. One is from the format. This is pre-taped, which makes sense as both Barkley and King are quite busy elsewhere, with her CBS This Morning work and his Inside The NBA work. But that does mean that they can’t react to breaking news as it happens.

However, the show did show some promise at parts. One came from the first guest, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. That interview started on a serious note, with King asking Kerr for some of his personal thoughts on watching what’s unfolding in Israel and Gaza given his family history (Kerr’s father Malcolm was killed by Islamic Jihad gunmen in 1984 while serving as president of the American University of Beirut).

And Kerr offered some notable thoughts there. Those included discussing how this is “total devastation for everyone involved, and brings up a lot of terrible memories for my family and me,” and speaking about how he found out about his father’s death at 3 a.m. (while he was an 18-year-old freshman at Arizona). Kerr said that “gave me a perspective on life” and impacted his more recent comments on gun violence.

After that, Barkley got into a conversation with Kerr about gun violence and what can be done to stop the reoccurrence of that issue. And Kerr responded with “Unfortunately, our democracy’s not working right now,” citing majority polling numbers for universal background checks and assault rifle bans and so on. There was an interesting further serious discussion from there as well, including more on Kerr’s father and how Middle East peace is “all about the nuances.” But then the show demonstrated how it can pull off a tonal shift, going from that to King roasting Barkley to Kerr.

King set that up by segueing from Kerr talking about coaching mentors like Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, saying “You carry on that as well, that legacy of being an incredible coach.” But she then brought up how Barkley had criticized the Warriors on Inside The NBA Tuesday, where he described them as “cooked” and “too old to win a championship.” And that led to Kerr laughing, and to Barkley trying to defend himself, and Kerr saying “I’m used to Charles’ comments” and “I also remember, Charles, that you claimed you were misquoted in your own autobiography” before they wrapped up the interview with everyone seemingly fine with the exchange. Here’s how that went Wednesday:

For reference, here’s what Barkley said on Inside The NBA Tuesday:

If King Charles can continue to show off this balance of serious and funny, and news and sports, there could be some merit to it. And there’s certainly some chemistry between Barkley and King, and Barkley’s well aware of the importance of that from his run on Inside The NBA. We’ll see how the show does going forward. But while the ratings weren’t great for it Wednesday, there were some positive moments, including that interview with Kerr.

[The Hollywood Reporter, Mediaite]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.