Gayle King and Charles Barkley will help break down traditional barriers surrounding news programming when they launch “King Charles,” a new weekly primetime program for CNN later this year.
The duo confirmed the weeks-anticipated move with an announcement Saturday afternoon on TNT, the CNN-like cable network owned by Warner Bros. and Discovery. CBS News, which considers King one of the most important members of its roster of reporters, signed the contract weeks ago, according to a person familiar with the matter. Barkley, who recently renewed his long-term contract with Warner Bros. Discovery’s sports division, was easily replaced.
King promised to host a show that offers “a good conversation without tearing other people down.” Barkley said the program will not try to emulate the “click bait” that magazine outlets are forced to publish in order to keep traffic numbers to please advertisers. “We don’t want to say, ‘We’re a liberal, a conservative, a Republican, a Democrat’ — that’s one of those things that has already destroyed television in general,” he said.
According to a memo from Chris Licht, CNN’s CEO, the one-hour live program is expected to air on Wednesdays “in prime time starting this fall and running through 2024.” “This show will be an exciting new way to provide our viewers with culturally relevant programming and unique perspectives from two incredibly dynamic personalities,” he added.
The move highlights how big media companies are giving up something they once demanded: exclusivity of talent. King, who continues to work at CBS News, is the latest news personality to diversify his roles at a time when traditional media is fragmenting and the audience that flocks to a particular reporter has dwindled.
Other news outlets are also beginning to allow their journalists to multitask. For example, at MSNBC, morning anchor Jonathan Lemire also serves as Politico’s White House bureau chief, and weekend anchor Jonathan Capehart continues to work at The Washington Post. CNN enjoyed the benefit of a similar relationship with CBS News, which included Anderson Cooper. Cooper is a correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and the stories he contributes to that long-running news magazine often appear on his CNN primetime program. ABC News is famously giving “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan more leeway to continue his football-analyst role at Fox Sports.
At the heart of this growing laissez-faire approach? Television executives are beginning to realize that if they allow announcers, journalists and athletes to ply their trade elsewhere, they can win new eyes to their shows. King’s role at CNN may bring some of the network’s viewers to his home base on “CBS Mornings.” However there are still rules. It is unlikely that CBS News would allow King to assume a role at ABC News or NBC News, or that NBCUniversal would allow MSNBC anchors to contribute their talents to CNN.
The show’s announcement comes just weeks before the nation’s major media companies hit Madison Avenue in television’s annual “frontline” market, when U.S. networks try to sell off much of their advertising inventory ahead of the start of a new cycle of programming. CNN recently launched a new Sunday program, “The Whole Truth,” which offers an hour-long single-topic documentary or deep dive.
CNN could use some new perks. The network saw its ratings decline significantly after the 2020 election, and Licht has been testing new ideas across CNN’s schedule, from regular town halls in prime time to a new morning show featuring Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. A new dynamic daytime format aimed at adding new energy and presentational fireworks to conventional news delivery. As the morning team grapples with personality challenges, the executive runs into some headwinds. In recent days, CNN has expressed interest in continuing to try new things, such as a prime-time run by Collins, and moving Chris Wallace’s interview show from Sunday evenings to Friday nights.
During an appearance with King on Saturday, Barkley said the program will avoid polarizing political debates, though it will speak openly about the issues of the day.
More to come….