Rat­ings bust for ‘Sun­day Night’

Show fea­tur­ing highly con­tro­ver­sial guest has low­est view­er­ship since pro­gram’s de­but.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio @la­times.com

Show fea­tur­ing Alex Jones has the low­est view­er­ship since the pro­gram’s de­but.

Megyn Kelly’s in­ter­view with con­spir­acy the­o­rist Alex Jones was the talk of the TV in­dus­try last week, but based on the Nielsen rat­ings, viewers did not care.

“Sun­day Night With Megyn Kelly” av­er­aged 3.53 mil­lion viewers in its 7 p.m. time slot, the low­est fig­ure yet since the pro­gram’s June 4 de­but on NBC.

Kelly’s pro­gram was swamped by a re­run of “60 Min­utes” on CBS, which av­er­aged 5.3 mil­lion viewers in the hour. In the 25-to-54 age group that ad­ver­tis­ers seek on the shows, NBC edged out CBS, with 888,000 viewers to CBS’ 864,000.

ABC’s “Amer­ica’s Fun­ni­est Home Videos” had 3.7 mil­lion viewers, and in the 25-to-54 de­mo­graphic fin­ished ahead of both news pro­grams.

NBC News took con­sid­er­able heat for the Jones in­ter­view, which Kelly had vig­or­ously pur­sued.

Jones, a ra­dio host and op­er­a­tor of the far-right news web­site In­fowars, has re­peat­edly said the 2012 shoot­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School in New­town, Conn. — which killed 26 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 20 chil­dren — was a hoax aimed at pro­mot­ing tougher gun con­trol laws.

Fam­i­lies of the Sandy Hook vic­tims, some of whom say they have been ha­rassed by Jones’ fol­low­ers, pleaded with the net­work not to give Jones a plat­form. A num­ber of ad­ver­tis­ers stayed away from the pro­gram, and NBC’s Con­necti­cut TV sta­tion chose not to run it.

Ul­ti­mately, the pub­lic didn’t seem all that in­ter­ested in what Jones had to say. Jones’ fol­low­ers may have ig­nored the pro­gram be­cause they thought it would be a neg­a­tive por­trayal, which it was.

NBC News added an in­ter­view of a fa­ther of a Sandy Hook vic­tim and a com­men­tary from its most re­spected an­chor, Tom Brokaw, to de­bunk Jones’ claims about the shoot­ing. Brokaw said the par­ents of the vic­tims “should not have to hear the cruel claim that it’s a lie.”

Jones re­peated his con­spir­acy the­ory in the in­ter­view. Kelly said he never dis­avowed his pre­vi­ous state­ments in their con­ver­sa­tions and noted there was no ev­i­dence to back his claims.

Brokaw’s ap­pear­ance was clearly an at­tempt to as­suage the Sandy Hook fam­i­lies who were out­raged and even threat­ened le­gal ac­tion against NBC News.

Kelly in­ter­viewed New­town par­ent Neil Hes­lin, who de­scribed the dev­as­tat­ing loss of his son.

“I think he’s blessed to have his chil­dren to spend the day with, to speak to,” Hes­lin said, re­fer­ring to Jones. “I don’t have that.”

Kelly did have sev­eral heated ex­changes with Jones, who was sweat­ing pro­fusely dur­ing their sit­down. She opened by press­ing him on why he called the vic­tims of the ter­ror­ist bomb­ing at an Ari­ana Grande con­cert in Manch­ester, Eng­land, “lib­eral trendies” when many were pre­teen girls.

The rigor of the piece prob­a­bly will take some of the sting out of cri­tiques of Kelly, some of which sug­gested that her tran­si­tion from Fox News to NBC News was off to a rocky start.

Jones tried to ra­tio­nal­ize his state­ments in the in­ter­view but for the most part seemed frus­trated by Kelly’s queries.

In a live-streamed video aired on his YouTube chan­nel, Jones lam­basted Kelly and the main­stream me­dia.

“This is a gi­ant, evil mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion,” he said. “They con­tinue to mis­rep­re­sent what I’ve said and what I’ve done.”

Still, he de­clared vic­tory — pop­ping a bot­tle of cham­pagne and an­grily vow­ing to keep up the fight against “glob­al­ism” and what he called the lies cov­ered up by the main­stream me­dia. Kelly re­ceived gen­er­ally pos­i­tive re­views from TV news col­leagues and from some crit­ics for the seg­ment on Jones. None­the­less, based on the tepid rat­ings, NBC News ex­ec­u­tives may be ask­ing them­selves if it was worth the trou­ble. “Sun­day Night With Megyn Kelly” has now de­clined in view­er­ship two weeks in a row. It opened with 6.2 mil­lion viewers on June 4 with a heav­ily pro­moted one-on-one in­ter­view with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. It had 3.6 mil­lion viewers its sec­ond week.

Brian Doben NBC News

MEGYN KELLY’S show “Sun­day Night” av­er­aged 3.53 mil­lion viewers this week. The pro­gram fea­tured an in­ter­view with a man who has re­peat­edly said the 2012 shoot­ing at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School was a hoax.

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