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Charles Barkley to host prime time CNN show that's not political.

OMG. I love CB! Could this be the start of something?

Charles Barkley and Gayle King’s New CNN Show Won’t Be Political, Hosts Say

Mr. Barkley, an NBA commentator, said while the prime-time show won’t have a partisan stance, it will tackle current issues like gun violence

By Isabella Simonetti, WSJ

Updated April 22, 2023 2:55 pm ET

Charles Barkley and Gayle King. Photo: Cary Edmonson/USA Today Sports; Gage Skidmore/Zuma Press

“CBS Mornings” anchor Gayle King and former National Basketball Association star Charles Barkley will host a weekly prime-time show on CNN starting this fall, the network said Saturday.

The new show, “King Charles,” will start this fall and will air on Wednesdays. Ms. King, 68 years old, is a well-known national news figure who will bring broad experience to CNN’s lineup. She will continue her responsibilities at CBS while hosting the CNN show.

Mr. Barkley is already part of the Warner Bros. Discovery WBD -1.81%decrease; red down pointing triangle family as one of the hosts of the popular “Inside the NBA” program on its TNT channel. He is outspoken on a range of issues beyond basketball.

The show is CNN Chief Executive Chris Licht’s latest experiment in prime-time, as the network struggles to find a formula that can boost ratings. Last month, CNN posted its lowest ratings in at least three decades among viewers 25 to 54 years old, according to Nielsen, and its average of 535,000 prime-time viewers in the first quarter as of March 24 was down 35% from a year earlier.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that CNN was finalizing a pact with Ms. King for a prime-time program. Puck earlier reported that CNN was in talks with Ms. King and Mr. Barkley.

Ms. King and Mr. Barkley announced the new program in an appearance on an NBA playoffs pregame show on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re both very curious people,” Ms. King said. Mr. Barkley said he wasn’t interested in doing more TV work, but when approached with the idea for this show, he thought, “Oh yeah, I’ll work with Gayle—that’s the only way.”

Mr. Barkley said the show will be nonpolitical. “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.

But politics and current events will be topics, the two said. “I just think we need to figure out a way to have a good conversation without tearing each other down,” Ms. King said.

Mr. Barkley said he wanted to keep the issue of gun violence in focus, rather than moving on quickly after deadly shootings. “We need to talk about it, man.” he said. “I’m a pro-gun guy, but it should not be easy to get guns.”

“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,” Mr. Licht said in a note to staff on Saturday.

The show will run into 2024, Mr. Licht said in the memo. Ms. King said lighter topics like food and pop culture will be incorporated into the show as well. “It doesn’t always have to be so heavy,” she said.

“Gayle King is one of the most dynamic journalists in the business. We have always supported Gayle in all of her endeavors and this is no different,” a CBS News representative said in an email.

CNN has been experimenting with different prime-time formats. Former CNN prime-time host Chris Cuomo was fired from the network in late 2021 after an investigation into his efforts to help his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, respond to sexual misconduct allegations. Chris Cuomo, who claimed he was wrongfully terminated, last year joined Nexstar Media Group Inc.’s cable-TV news network NewsNation.

The ratings declines are a challenge for CNN, which has traditionally been a growth and profit engine for its parent company. Cable news networks have collectively seen ratings decline from peaks when major stories, such as the 2020 presidential election and coronavirus pandemic, boosted viewership.

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