In April, newscaster Chris Wallace was hosting Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace? four times a week on the streaming service CNN+.
Wallace was panicking at CNN+. He reportedly threatened to leave unless given a show on CNN’s cable network.
CNN eventually discontinued the streaming service and moved Wallace to the 7 p.m., Sunday timeslot on the cable network.
But the ratings have been abysmal.
Wallace pulled only 401,000 viewers for his inaugural broadcast, according to Nielsen data shared with the National Review. In other words, he was sitting 29 percent below the 2022 average for that timeslot.
Plus, Wallace did especially poorly among advertisers’ favorite demographic: viewers between the ages of 25 and 54.
Wallace pulled a measly 44,000 demo viewers. That’s only 46 percent of the average.
A better question might be, “Who’s Watching Chris Wallace?”
However, some CNN insiders have defended Wallace against allegations of underperformance.
A network insider attributed Wallace’s low numbers to CNN’s dual rollout.
CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, also owns the streaming service HBO Max. So, CNN airs Wallace’s show not only on the cable network, but also on HBO Max.
In fact, CNN streams the interviews three days before broadcasting them on cable.
Wallace’s show “doesn’t follow a typical linear distribution model so its success won’t be determined like one,” the insider told the New York Post. “Live domestic TV viewers represent only a fraction of its intended audience.”
Deadliest Drug Ever (are you taking it?) [sponsored]
Wallace became known for hitting political figures with probing questions. A former Fox News anchor, he became that network’s first anchor to moderate a presidential debate.
Now on CNN, Wallace finds himself interviewing a range of figures beyond just politics.
In the first episode, Wallace interviewed both the filmmaker Tyler Perry and the former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. He questioned Breyer about the draft leaked from the Supreme Court earlier this year, and Breyer said that the identity of the leaker remains a mystery.
Wallace also interviewed recording artist Shania Twain… and he sang along to her song “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.”
Take a look —
Like Wallace himself, CNN has claimed to be expanding beyond partisan politics.
In contrast to the “extremes” dominating cable television news, CEO Chris Licht said that at CNN, “we aspire to be a beacon for the kind of journalism that is essential to democracy.”
Why CBD Sometimes Doesn’t Work [Sponsored]
CNN has been claiming a renewed emphasis on news, with less commentary, since the forced departure of former chief Jeff Zucker this past winter and the corporate ownership change. The war in Ukraine has given CNN a chance to display its news chops, and war coverage has dominated the network’s prime time.
Licht’s point was driven home by his boss David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery chairman, at the same presentation. He contrasted CNN with “advocacy” news networks.
“We at CNN intend to advocate for journalism first, to advocate for news and truth,” Zaslav said.
Wallace hosted Fox News Sunday from 2003 to 2021. He left in December amid disagreements with Tucker Carlson, he told The New York Times in March.
After the collapse of CNN+, Wallace appeared on other CNN programs as a commentator to preach about the congressional hearings on the Capitol riot. He may continue that role.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.