Tapper, who anchors “The Lead” at 4 p.m. for CNN on weekdays and the Sunday politics program “State of the Union,” will tackle an extra hour next week. CNN aired promos last night touting a series of 9 p.m. “Lead” broadcasts slated to take place during the week of April 24th. During those primetime broadcasts, Tapper is expected to examine President Trump’s first 100 days in office as part of a series of special reports that will lead into weekend programming, according to a person familiar with the matter, Tapper will continue to anchor his regular 4 p.m. hour as well, this person said.
The limited run will put Tapper up against two tough rivals: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson. The primetime berth comes after Tapper’s late-afternoon program has gained significant hikes in viewership. Viewership for “The Lead” spiked 56% among the audience most coveted by advertisers in news programming – people between 25 and 54 – in the first quarter of 2017, according to Nielsen. Overall viewership rose 39% for the same time period. Meanwhile, his “State of the Union” experienced a 40% rise in the 25-to-54 demo and a 22% hike in total viewers in the first quarter.
CNN often uses its 9 p.m. hour to run various kinds of programming, including a spate of non-fiction documentaries. In recent months, the network has predominantly given over two hours of primetime to Anderson Cooper, who typically starts at 8 p.m. The Time Warner-owned network has also used the 9 p.m. hour for a series of occasional specials led by commentator Van Jones.
Tapper has gained notice over the past year for no-nonsense questioning of Trump administration officials, as well as for offering a gimlet-eyed view of major events since the 2016 presidential election.
Next week’s run will not mark his first run in CNN’s evening schedule. In 2013, he appeared later in the day for three weeks as CNN worked to fill slots while Erin Burnett, who hosts a 7 p.m. hour on CNN, was on maternity leave. Tapper also continued to host his 4 p.m. show as well. Tapper joined CNN from ABC News in January of that year.