Jon Klein’s Hail Mary pass fell well short of its target, as the premiere of the new CNN talk show helmed by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and columnist Kathleen Parker finished last in its time slot.
Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings, Parker Spitzer drew 454,000 viewers Monday at 8 p.m., leagues behind Fox News Channel juggernaut The O’Reilly Factor (3.11 million viewers) and MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann (1.12 million). The debut also trailed Nancy Grace at CNN sibling Headline News by some 14,000 viewers.
Parker Spitzer fared even worse in the demo, averaging just 118,000 adults 25-54. By comparison, Grace drew 149,000 members of the TV news demo, while O’Reilly averaged 722,000 and Olbermann notched 329,000.
Reviews for the new program were largely negative. The Gotham dailies were particularly unenthusiastic––the New York Daily News said the show was “unlikely to quicken viewer pulses”––while the New York Times suggested that Spitzer’s recent history “cast an awkward shadow” on the program. (Sworn in as New York’s 54th governor in January 2007, Spitzer resigned 14 months later in the wake of revelations that he’d been securing the services of a high-price prostitution ring.)
While Parker Spitzer hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, CNN execs may find some measure of comfort in a week-to-week comparison. On Monday, Sept. 27, the fill-in program Rick’s List drew just 311,000 viewers in the 8 p.m. slot. That show had been hosted by CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, who at the end of the week was fired after a radio show appearance in which he called Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart a “bigot” and suggested that Jews were in charge of the media.
In what would be the final major staffing decisions of his six-year tenure as head of CNN, former network president Jon Klein hired Spitzer and Parker before going on to name UK TV personality Piers Morgan the successor to 20-year network stalwart Larry King.
After a multiyear ratings slide, Klein was shown the door on Sept. 24. He was succeeded by Ken Jautz, who previously had served as president of Headline News.