The first night of Jake Tapper’s stint as host of CNN Tonight, featuring a heavily promoted interview with President Joe Biden, drew an average of 854,000 viewers in the 9 PM ET hour, according to Nielsen numbers.
The show ended up in third place against news network rivals, including Fox News’ Hannity, which drew 2.6 million viewers, and MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight, drawing 1.6 million.
CNN Tonight did beat MSNBC in the 25-54 demo in the 9 PM ET time slot, drawing an average of 211,000, versus 144,000 for MSNBC. Fox News’ Hannity averaged 323,000.
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Tapper is hosting CNN Tonight through the midterms, and the network has not announced plans for a permanent host after that. In his interview with Biden, the president talked of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats, his son Hunter’s legal troubles and when he plans to decide whether to run for president in 2024. Tapper also interviewed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the second half hour.
CNN Tonight had had a rotating series of hosts since Chris Cuomo was fired in December. Tapper’s debut show did improve on CNN Tonight‘s audience from last month, when the show averaged 680,000 total viewers, but it is down from Cuomo’s average from the same period last year. MSNBC said that Alex Wagner Tonight was up among total viewers and adults 25-54 versus its average versus the previous month.
The figures are from Nielsen via Fox News and MSNBC.
CNN has been moving away from opinion and back to its newsier roots under new chairman and CEO Chris Licht. But they network faces the challenge of drawing viewers to primetime, where opinion hosts dominate on Fox News and MSNBC. Other outlets also are trying to offer a nightly alternative to opinion programming, including Nexstar with its NewsNation programming, and CNBC, which features a Shepard Smith newscast at 7 PM. But they also have struggled to break through.
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