CNN Calls in Bill Maher, But It Most Likely Won't Be Enough After Latest Failure


As new executives at CNN try to right a listing ship, they’re calling in a familiar name — although not in the way you might think.

In a media release Monday, the network announced that Bill Maher would be coming to the network in an unusual format for cable news.

The liberal comedian and panel show host will be dumping a 10-minute segment that usually landed on YouTube on the network instead.

“HBO’s popular post-show segment ‘Overtime’ is coming to CNN on Friday nights at 11:30pm ET.  Starting Friday, February 3rd it will air during CNN Tonight,” the network stated in a media release.

“‘Overtime’ features Maher and his guests continuing the discussion and answering viewer questions following each week’s episode of ‘Real Time with Bill Maher.’ Topics include news of the day, culture, business, politics, and more.

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“Maher headlined his first special on HBO in 1989 and has starred in 12 HBO solo specials to date,” the release continued.

“Recognized as having the ability to ‘consistently get people talking’ and an ‘eclectic guest list,’ Maher’s ‘Overtime’ joins several other recent partnerships between HBO and CNN.”

The reason HBO and CNN have “recent partnerships” is because they’re owned by the same corporate monolith, Warner Bros. Discovery. After the two merged last year, new CNN president Chris Licht promised major changes at the network, moving back toward hard news after spending the majority of the Trump years as a leftist propaganda outlet.

Will you watch this segment on CNN?

If Licht and Co. have managed to turn down the network’s political bent, however, it’s clear that they haven’t tamed the beast or gotten anywhere in the avenue of hard news.

And the Maher news comes on the heels of the biggest failure of Licht’s tenure so far — namely, the entire week of Jan. 16-22.

According to The Wrap, Nielsen ratings only clocked CNN with an average of 444,000 viewers in primetime and 417,000 in the daytime.

In the coveted 25-54 demographic, meanwhile, the network was only managing 93,000 in primetime and 80,000 in the daytime, respectively.

These were the lowest ratings in nine years, making it the first time since May of 2014 that the network couldn’t crack 450,000 average viewers, according to The Wrap.

What’s even more puzzling is that the network’s most reliable demographic — travelers using United States airports — has been steadily growing, with the Transportation Safety Administration doing an average of 2.07 million daily flight checks in December. When CNN can’t even capture potential viewers who are riding out a nine-hour delay at LaGuardia, you know things are bad.

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Don’t plan for things to look up anytime soon, according to a source The Wrap described as “an insider.”

“Upcoming programming changes likely to make matters worse,” the source said.

Is this one of them? It’s unclear, but it’s unlikely to make things better. It’s difficult to consider this anything more than a stopgap move when you look at past Bill Maher “Overtime” sessions:

WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.

But then, it’s not like wholesale changes have worked, either.

Consider the case of Don Lemon, who was moved from primetime to host a morning show with network fixtures Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. Not only have the ratings been terrible, the fashion has been atrocious, as well:

And, while sources said CNN was considering a late-night comedy show to boost ratings — and that Maher was in the running to host it, along with Trevor Noah, Arsenio Hall, and Jon Stewart — Licht threw cold water on the idea.

“I worked on a comedy show. And it took over 200 people to produce an actual comedy show. So no, I would not be so foolish as to, in one fell swoop, hurt the brand of comedy and news by trying to do a comedy show on CNN,” Licht told the Los Angeles Times in a story published Monday.

Probably for the best, when you consider there’s so much else to laugh at on the network — especially the ratings.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture