CNN’s gamble to pair loudmouth basketball commentator Charles Barkley with morning news star Gayle King in prime time has been a disaster in the ratings — even losing out to reruns of old “Friends” and “South Park” episodes.
Since its debut in late November, viewership has dropped 20% for “King Charles,” the weekly call-in talk show that airs on the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned news network Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
The first airing of the show generated an audience of 500,000 total viewers and 139,000 in the advertiser-coveted 25-54 age demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.
But the Jan. 31 broadcast, the most recent airing as the program was off this past week, brought in just 400,000 total viewers and 89,000 in the 25-54 demographic, Nielsen figures show.
The Jan. 31 episode was the first in which “King Charles” failed to cross the 100,000 viewer threshold in the 25-54 demographic.
The show lost in the ratings to repeat episodes of hit sitcoms such as “Friends” and “Modern Family,” which both aired on Warner Bros. Discovery-owned sister station TBS.
Repeats of “South Park,” which aired at 2:30 a.m. on Comedy Central, as well as “Seinfeld” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” also outdid “King Charles” in the ratings, according to Nielsen figures.
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.
The debut episode finished well behind MSNBC’s “Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell,” which generated 1.6 million total viewers — though “King Charles” did score a victory with 139,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo versus just 132,000 viewers who tuned in to watch O’Donnell.
“Gutfeld!,” the Fox News comedy show, took top spot with 2.2 million total viewers and 241,000 in the 25-54 demographic.
A source close to the network told The Post that the numbers don’t accurately reflect the complete picture given that the show streams on Warner Bros. Discovery’s MAX service in addition to the linear cable network.
The source added that “King Charles” boasts the youngest, most affluent and most diverse audience of its competitors in the 10 p.m. time slot.
According to Nielsen, 43% of “King Charles” viewers are non-white compared to just 7% for Fox News Channel and 27% for MSNBC.
The source also added that clips of “King Charles” have often gone viral, generating millions of views across CNN digital platforms and YouTube.
Fox News is owned by Fox Corp — the sister company of The Post’s parent News Corp.
The Post has sought comment from CNN.
Chris Licht, the former CNN CEO who was fired from his post last summer after a disastrous magazine expose revealed him to be a thin-skinned executive who alienated the network’s rank and file as well as its star anchors, conceived of the idea of a show featuring Barkley and King.
Barkley, the 60-year-old retired basketball Hall of Famer, has carved out his own niche as a larger-than-life television commentator and media personality on CNN’s sister station TNT’s coverage of the NBA.
But the star power of the former “Round Mound of Rebound” has not bled into CNN’s primetime lineup, which has struggled to keep up in the ratings with rivals MSNBC and Fox News.
King, 69, is co-host of CBS’ flagship morning news show “CBS Mornings.”
Licht’s successor, Mark Thompson, has started to put his own stamp on the network. Last week, he announced a major overhaul of CNN’s morning lineup — removing Poppy Harlow and Phil Mattingly from the anchor desk.
Thompson, the former BBC director, has a mandate to lift CNN out of its ratings doldrums.
Recent Nielsen data show that the ratings-challenged network’s total viewership in prime time has lagged behind the History Channel and INSP, an obscure cable network that plays Western TV shows and films.