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Don Lemon Has Choppy Launch In CNN’s 11 PM Slot

Time Warner outlet tests popular anchor in "11th Hour"

Don Lemon CNN
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

CNN’s popular host Don Lemon is experiencing a little turbulence during his early days as host of the network’s 11 p.m. trial balloon, “11th Hour.” In other words, his ratings are up and down.

An average of 213,000 viewers watched Lemon’s debut telecast last Monday, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen, followed by 235,000 on Tuesday and 166,000 on Wednesday. A companion half-hour, “ICYMI,” drew an average of 177,000 on December 2, 265,000 December 3 and 163,000 on December 4. Not all the telecasts attracted the minimum number of viewers in the demographic preferred by advertisers, viewers between 25 and 54. The shows did not air on Thursday and Friday, pre-empted by special programming centered on the death of Nelson Mandela.

Lemon is hosting the half-hour show for three weeks while Erin Burnett is on maternity leave, and CNN is running a companion half-hour, “ICYMI,” at 11:30 p.m.; repeats of her “Outfront” typically hold forth in the time slot. The program is not expected at present to become a permanent part of CNN’s schedule.

The move appears to be something of an experiment for the Time Warner-owned cable-news outlet to see how Lemon fares in and around the primetime schedule. In Burnett’s absence, Lemon is slated to host “11th Hour” for three weeks. Lemon, who has hosted a weekend edition of “CNN Newsroom,” will also substitute for Burnett during the weeks of December 23, December 30 and January 6, CNN said. Jake Tapper will host “Outfront” during the weeks Lemon is anchoring in late-night.

Competing programs on Fox News Channel and MSNBC trump viewership of “11th Hour.”A rerun of “All in with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC drew an average of 338,000 on Lemon’s debut night, while a repeat of Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” drew an average of about 1.28 million, according to Nielsen.

CNN’s eyes may be looking to see if Lemon can draw more people at that time than the Erin Burnett reruns that have recently been airing there. Judging a new program after its first three days may be premature, of course, but according to Nielsen,”11th Hour” on its own is not bringing an increase of viewers to the time period. “Outfront” reruns had been drawing an average of 414,000 viewers, Nielsen said.

Last Tuesday night, “11th Hour” and “ICYMI” drew average audiences of 235,000 and 265,000, respectively, an increase from one program to the next that could bode well if the programs can duplicate the feat when they return to the air.