Don Lemon was the “it” guy at CNN, but once Jeff Zucker was forced out and the merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery was complete, Lemon’s future at the company began to look shaky. With CNN’s other well-known names dropping off left and right, it was pretty inevitable that Lemon would wind up under the proverbial pink slip guillotine.
But Lemon was spared, likely due to a very costly contract that Warner didn’t want to buy him out of. Instead, they decided to take him from his primetime spot and place him in a morning spot with a new show called “CNN This Morning.” The show was heavily promoted on the ailing news network, and Lemon readied himself for a new day to dawn.
The only issue is that they put the sinking host in a time slot that competes with “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, and the leviathan-sized fish in the water, “Fox & Friends” on Fox News. Sure enough, Lemon and his morning-time co-hosts failed to attract many viewers. In fact, embarrassingly few according to the New York Post:
Despite heavy promotion from the network, “CNN This Morning’s” first show drew a mere 387,000 viewers and averaged 71,000 viewers in the advertiser-coveted 25-54 age demographic, according to Nielsen ratings.
By comparison, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” amassed 793,000 viewers head to head from 6 to 9 am ET. Meanwhile, Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” came out on top, averaging nearly 1.5 million viewers.
No show across CNN, MSNBC and Fox News ranked lower than Lemon’s program on Tuesday.
According to a CNN spokesman, no morning show has stellar ratings on the first episode, and to be sure, it’s likely that the ratings will go up over time, but this is the Don “white men are the biggest terrorist threat to America” Lemon we’re talking about here. This move to a time slot was a promotion for him! His ratings should be more solid!
In truth, Lemon’s star was already low and seemingly fading. His rhetoric had become so divisive that even a former CNN producer was begging CNN to force him to tone it down. Lemon is, for all intents and purposes, a detriment to the network, and CNN’s brass knows it.
While this move is definitely meant to put Lemon in a less noticeable position, it will be interesting to see what happens in a few years when his contract is up.