Debut of Bill Maher on CNN Utterly Flops, King of Late Night Reigns Supreme


Ratings-challenged CNN brought HBO’s Bill Maher into its Friday night lineup last week and still managed to get crushed by Fox News host Greg Gutfeld.

The network had been weighing the addition of a “comedian” to liven things up as it continues to struggle with its declining presence in the cable news landscape, Semafor reported last month.

However, there was nothing funny about how poorly the gimmick performed for CNN and its new boss, CEO Chris Licht.

That is, unless you are part of the growing portion of the population that has tuned out the network and its brand of cynicism and disinformation.

Maher’s popular “Overtime” segment generally airs on YouTube on Fridays after his “Real Time” show wraps up on HBO.

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On Friday, the segment aired for 14 minutes during the second hour of “CNN Tonight.”

The results: The dominant “Gutfeld!” on Fox News did not skip a beat as Maher was a flop.

The ratings for 11:30 p.m. ET to 11:44 p.m. ET on Friday showed the HBO host failed to make an impact in both total viewers and in the key 25-54 demographic sought after by advertisers.

Maher’s segment attracted just 401,000 viewers to CNN and only 92,000 in the demo, according to Nielsen.

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In contrast, during that same time, “Gutfeld!” bagged more than 2 million viewers – and 370,000 in the demo.

The initial failure of adding Maher to the struggling network is laughable, but most certainly not in the way CNN’s leadership had hoped.

The network came up with the idea of getting into the business of comedy last month, Semafor’s Max Tani reported.

“CNN is considering hiring a comedian to host one of its primetime shows,” Tani said.

Citing five people familiar with the plan, he wrote that such a person could “fill the primetime 9 to 11 p.m. hours with a nontraditional version of the news.”

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Tani added, “CNN executives have floated names including Bill Maher, Trevor Noah, Arsenio Hall, and Jon Stewart, and have looked at other comedic news-focused talk shows for inspiration.”

CNN decided to try out Maher for a 14-minute segment — and it failed to make an impact of any real substance.

Ratings for the second hour of “CNN Tonight” on Friday were more or less in the same basement where they usually reside.

The program generally attracts between 250,000 to 350,000 people on any given night. That is well below Fox News overall and barely competitive with MSNBC in the demo.

Gutfeld’s show, meanwhile, leads not only cable news during the 11 p.m. ET hour but also regularly beats late-night shows on ABC, CBS and NBC.

CORRECTION, Feb. 9, 2023: Greg Gutfeld’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.