Gayle King, Charles Barkley to Host Weekly CNN Show ‘King Charles’

Gayle King and Charles Barkley will help break traditional barriers around news programming later this year when they launch “King Charles,” a new weekly primetime program for CNN.

The duo confirmed the move, which has been anticipated for weeks, with an announcement Saturday afternoon on TNT, a cable network that is, like CNN, owned by Warner Bros, Discovery. CBS News, which counts King as one of the most prominent members of its roster of correspondents, signed off on the deal weeks ago, according to a person familiar with matter. Barkley, who recently renewed his longstanding deal with Warner Bros. Discovery’s sports division, had an easier transition.

King vowed to host a show that offers “a good conversation without tearing other people down.” Barkley said the program would not try to emulate “clickbait” that journalism outlets are forced to publish in order to keep traffic numbers up to please advertisers. “We don’t want to say, ‘We’re a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat’ — that’s one of the things that’s already ruined television in general,” he said.

The one-hour live program is expected to air Wednesdays “in primetime beginning this fall and running into 2024,” according to a memo from Chris Licht, CEO of CNN. “This show will be an exciting new way we are delivering culturally relevant programming and unique perspectives to our audience, from two incredibly dynamic personalities,” he added.

The move spotlights how big media companies are letting go something they once demanded: talent exclusivity. King, who will continue to work for CBS News, is the latest news personality to diversify her roles at a time when traditional media is fragmenting, and the audiences that might flock to a specific correspondent have dwindled.

Other news outlets have also begun to allow their journalists to tackle multiple jobs. At MSNBC, for example, early-morning anchor Jonathan Lemire also serves as the White House bureau chief for Politico, and weekend host Jonathan Capehart has continued to work for The Washington Post. CNN has enjoyed the fruits of a similar relationship with CBS News that involves Anderson Cooper. Cooper is a correspondent for CBS’ “60 Minutes,” and the stories he contributes to that long-standing newsmagazine often turn up on his CNN primetime program. ABC News famously gives “Good Morning America” co-anchor Michael Strahan much leeway to pursue his football-analyst role at Fox Sports

At the heart of this growing laissez-faire attitude? TV executives have begun to realize they can win new eyeballs to their programs if they let anchors, journalists and sportscasters ply their trade in other places. King’s role on CNN could bring some of the network’s viewers to her home base at “CBS Mornings.” There are still rules, however. It seems unlikely that CBS News would allow King to take up 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 big media companies are slated to pitch Madison Avenue in TV’s annual “upfront” market, when U.S. networks try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory in advance of launching a new cycle of programs. CNN also recently unveiled a new Sunday program, “The Whole Truth,” which offers a one-hour single-topic documentary or deep dive.

CNN could use some new offerings. The network has seen its ratings slump noticeably since the aftermath of the 2020 election, and Licht has been testing new ideas across CNN’s schedule, ranging from regular town halls in primetime to a new morning program featuring Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, and a new kinetic daytime format aimed to add new energy and presentation fireworks to regular news delivery. The executive has run into some headwinds, with the morning team grappling with personality challenges. In recent days, CNN has signaled a willingness to continue to try new things, such as a run in primetime by Collins, and moving Chris Wallace’s interview show to Friday nights from Sunday evenings.

During Saturday’s appearance with King, Barkley said the program would eschew polarizing political discussions, though it would offer frank talk about the issues of the day.

More to come….

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