Last week, on the night when John King took the stage to plug his new show during the CNN UpFront, John King USA gathered the lowest number of 25- to 54-year-old viewers, the key demo for news, for that hour of CNN. (It was the lowest number in total viewers since Christmas Day, 2007). Around the debut of his show on March 22, John King spoke with Mediaite and said he didn’t much care about early ratings results. “I don’t care at all about how they look after three days, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “If you come back to me after three weeks, and especially three months, then we can have a more serious conversation about that. And even more importantly, six months and nine months.” Well, the website dutifully checked in after that first marker, and found that three weeks in, King’s hour regularly dropped viewers from Wolf Blitzer’s lead-in, was holding steady with the interim period before his show launched, but was down roughly 40 percent in the key demo and in total viewers from the same time last year.
We’re now a full month in, and King’s trajectory has yet to change. This last week was his worst yet, pushing his average numbers in the news demographic to fourth place on cable news for the month, behind even sister network HLN’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell. Over the past few weeks, CNN has received a lot of unsolicited advice on how to fix their ratings slump — including firing CNN president Jon Klein and giving King’s show an outsider viewpoint and the name Politics is Broken. Most of the advice seemed to be: Change the formula. King’s show now, with its middle-of-the-road, straight-news focus and blandly handsome, chinny all-American host, is not much of a formula change, no matter how many tricks the Magic Wall can perform. And so far, it doesn’t appear to be quite working. But still, a month is only a month. Per John King’s own advice, we’ll check back in to see how he’s doing in six months, and in nine months, and after a year — if the show is still in the same format by then.
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