Shepard Smith brings a lot to CNBC, including a sterling reputation for chasing facts. But he wasn’t able in his first night on air to catch the audience he enjoyed at his former employer, Fox News Channel.
Smith’s new 7 p.m. program, “The News With Shepard Smith,” won an average of 373,000 viewers in its debut Wednesday night on CNBC, according to data from Nielsen, and an average of 56,000 viewers in the demographic prized by advertisers in news programming, people between 25 and 54. Those numbers are well below the crowd size he generated for Fox News Channel in the mid-afternoon, when he attracted an average of 1.3 million and a demo audience of 195,000, according to ratings data. Smith left that network in 2019 after clashing with primetime host Tucker Carlson.
CNBC said it was pleased with Smith’s launch, which had been touted with a print ad in The New York Times and local commercials across various cable systems. “News viewers are creatures of habit and it takes a long time to change those habits. But we will fight for every viewer every weeknight,” CNBC said in a statement. The network noted that “The News” generated an audience more than twice as large as its September average in the time period and more than 3.5 times as many viewers as “The Kudlow Report,” the last regular news program to air on CNBC in the time slot, in the first quarter of 2014.
Smith’s program edged out its time-slot competitor on Fox Business Network, a second hour of “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” which captured 308,000 viewers overall and 26,000 in the demo. But it was well behind Martha MacCallum’s “The Story” on Fox News Channel, Joy Reid’s “The ReidOut” on MSNBC and Erin Burnett’s “Outfront” on CNN.
Some of CNBC’s daytime programs captured more viewers between 25 and 54 on Wednesday, according to Nielsen. “The News” captured more viewers in the demo than CNBC daytime staples like “Squawk Box” and “Closing Bell,” but not as many as “Fast Money Halftime Report,” “Squawk Alley” or “Power Lunch.” CNBC does not use Nielsen figures to negotiate ad rates for its daytime programming.
Smith’s show is an experiment of sorts for NBCUniversal, which sees his program as a down-the-middle alternative to cable-news competitors that rely more heavily on partisan viewpoints. An original hour at 7 p.m. is seen as a way to keep the network’s high-income financial audience hanging on for primetime. For the past few years, the business-news network has ceded its evening schedule to strips of reality shows and documentary series like repeats of ABC’s “Shark Tank” or cycles of “Jay Leno’s Garage.”