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CNN remains interested in signing Charles Barkley.
He confirmed his interest in the network in an interview with the New York Post on Thursday. CNN hopes to pair Barkley with Gayle King.
The duo, however, are not in discussions to fill the full-time vacant primetime role at 9 pm — the time slot Chris Cuomo assumed before his firing in 2021 — despite previous speculation.
Rather, CNN hopes to pair the two for a weekly show at an unspecified time.
CNN could use Barkley and King on Sunday nights, or one day a week a la Rachel Maddow each Monday on MSNBC. Either way, CNN must still find a host or hosts to fill the primetime innings Cuomo left behind.
And therein lies the chief programming concern at the network.
CNN has not replaced Cuomo because it does not employ a personality who can successfully carry a primetime program. The channel has rotated Laura Coates, Sara Sidner, and Kasie Hunt over the past year — none of whom have proven to be sufficient draws in the ratings.
Ultimately, CNN ought to look on the outside and hire someone with the potential to be its Rachel Maddow, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, or Stephen A. Smith. That person does not presently exist on the bench at CNN.
But until then, Barkley would give the network the star power it lacks in the short term. He’d give the viewers a reason to watch. He’d add positive energy.
Barkley would distract from the ongoing struggles that plague the CNN brand. Barkley, himself, called the channel “a s*** show right now” in his Wednesday interview.
Currently, CNN lacks an identity, a purpose. The channel saw substantial declines in 2022, despite an election year.
Twenty-four percent of viewers fled the channel last year. In primetime, CNN drew just 735,000 viewers.
We recently analyzed the year that was 2022:
And 2023 has been no better.
CNN recently recorded a nine-year low in viewership. The new Don Lemon-led morning show has further tarnished the brand with all-time lows and daily turmoil.
(Lemon is not in “formal training” for his issues with women.)
If nothing else, Barkley would be something worth promoting. He’s entertaining on the air. He’s unpredictable. He’d attract big-name guests, be it in politics or sports or entertainment.
Barkley’s personality a sharp turn from the stuffiness of Anderson Cooper and the oddness of Jim Acosta.
Sure, settling for a former NBA player with little knowledge of American politics isn’t ideal. Nor is pairing him with a 68-year-old anchor who Don Lemon would say is well past her prime.
But that’s the state CNN finds itself in, a state of desperation for what was once the preeminent news brand.