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In one of the most significant programming moves since joining CNN as its CEO nearly a year ago, Chris Licht has hired CBS Mornings co-anchor Gayle King and NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley to host a weekly primetime program, to be called King Charles.
The show was announced on TNT as part of the channel’s NBA playoff pregame coverage.
“What I think is so great for the both of us is that it is live TV,” King said on the program. “Whatever happens, happens.”
King Charles will be an hour long and begin running on CNN later this year and into 2024. King will continue to work for CBS in the mornings, and Barkley will keep his duties at Turner Sports.
Barkley said he was not intrigued about the idea of hosting a show for CNN until King’s name was mentioned. King, similarly, said she “wasn’t looking for another job.”
At a lunchtime event at the Paley Center in New York Thursday, Licht was asked about the rumors of a King-Barkley show and responded by saying, “Wouldn’t that be a fun show to watch? Wouldn’t you watch that show? I would watch that, no matter what network it was on.”
The show will be a big swing for CNN, which has been undergoing a programming reset since Licht joined about a year ago. So far he has launched a new morning show and revamped the dayside news hours with a more dynamic format.
In primetime, CNN has tried a number of formats, from panel discussions to longform interviews.
However, King Charles will be a very different type of show. At the Paley Center event, Licht said he wants to take big swings and “try different things.”
“One of the things that I’ve been very clear about is we should try to widen the aperture of what could be in primetime. That we need to compete not for the news junkie,” Licht said. “Let’s compete for people that are watching television, who have discretionary time… people who are saying should I watch ESPN? Should I watch Netflix? should I watch HGTV? Hey, CNN always has something interesting. And I think if we compete for those viewers without offending the core cable news junkie that’s to me the best guess or best hypothesis of what could be successful.”
Read Licht’s full memo to staff below.
To my CNN Colleagues,
I am thrilled to share that CNN will be home to a new show featuring the extraordinary duo of Gayle King and Charles Barkley, aptly titled King Charles, which will air weekly in primetime beginning this fall and running into 2024. 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. We are excited that they are both able to join us in addition to their current respective roles with Gayle continuing to anchor CBS Mornings. King Charles exemplifies the one-team, one-company mentality with Charles playing double duty at CNN and in his role at WBD Sports.
There will be more to come on this in the months ahead, but in the meantime, please join me in welcoming Gayle and Charles to CNN.
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