The title of the new CNN Sunday show hosted by Chris Wallace, "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?", might ask a remarkably appropriate question, though perhaps not in the way its creators and producers intended. "Who's Talking?" recently debuted to abysmal numbers, leaving some of Wallace's colleagues and supporters scrambling to spin the news favorably.
At 7 p.m. Eastern time last Sunday, Wallace's show premiered on the network. Even though CNN promoted the show heavily, it drew just 401,000 total viewers and a measly 44,000 viewers in the coveted 25-54 age demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Comparing those numbers to the show's competition and to other CNN shows that previously aired in the same time slot demonstrates just how poorly the "Who's Talking" launch went. The numbers represent a 29% drop from the 7 p.m. overall network average in 2022 and a 64% drop among the 25-54 group. By contrast, "Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy" over at Wallace's former network, Fox News, drew a staggering 1.3 million total viewers, more than three times Wallace's audience. It's worth noting, however, that Gowdy's show debuted in June 2021, so it may already have established a core audience.
Still, Wallace has had difficulty finding his niche since he left Fox earlier this year after 18 years with the network. He signed with CNN for a hefty salary between $6 and $10 million a year. At the time, Jeff Zucker was still the president of CNN Worldwide, and Zucker and the network were eagerly anticipating the launch of CNN+, a new subscription-based streaming service on which Wallace was supposed to star.
But like Wallace's new show, CNN+ tanked. It debuted on March 29 and was canceled by April 28, leaving hosts and staff reeling. Meanwhile, Zucker resigned, and new president Chris Licht began to reshuffle the priorities at CNN. "Who's Talking," which was initially intended to air four days a week on CNN+, was then reworked into a Sunday evening show on network TV.
Despite the discouraging launch of "Who's Talking," CNN remains encouraged about its future. "We’re thrilled with the launch and Chris’s news-making interviews," a network spokesperson said. The unnamed spokesperson also noted that three episodes of the show, including the premiere, were made available for streaming on Friday, and streaming viewers would not have been included in the numbers.
"Live domestic TV viewers represent only a fraction of [the show's] intended audience," another source at CNN reportedly said, suggesting that ratings don't tell the whole story.
Still, CNN's optimism hasn't kept other media outlets and personalities from hammering the poor showing:
The next episode of "Who's Talking with Chris Wallace?" will feature an interview with former MLB slugger Alex Rodriguez.