Sarah Palin upstages Piers Morgan's CNN premiere with Oprah Winfrey
Morgan's heavily promoted CNN show got off to a decent if not thrilling start in the ratings Monday night, scoring 2.1 million total viewers according to the Nielsen Co.
But Fox News Channel, which employs Palin as an analyst, was not to be outdone. The network shrewdly scheduled the former Alaska governor as a guest on "Hannity," where she attacked the mainstream media for connecting her to the recent shooting in Tucson.
As a result, Morgan had to settle for second place to Sean Hannity, who delivered 2.4 million viewers. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was third with 1.1 million.
Even so, the Morgan premiere at 9 p.m. delivered a rare dose of healthy ratings for CNN. The program more than tripled the audience "Larry King Live" was averaging in its final days late last year.
Some reviewers were complimentary to "Piers Morgan Tonight," while others complained that the host lobbed too many softballs in Winfrey's direction.
The real test will come in the days ahead, as initial curiosity wanes for Morgan's show and viewers settle into normal patterns. Morgan has a difficult lead-in with "Parker Spitzer," a troubled interview show that has struggled to find an audience. And "Piers Morgan" will present many interviews as taped pieces rather than live, which reduces the immediacy of the events and makes it harder to play off the news.
On Tuesday night, Morgan will interview Howard Stern. Jonathan Wald, Morgan's executive producer, said of the Fox News rivalry: "It will be interesting to see what happens when we don't have Oprah and they don't have Pailn. Like, say, tonight with Howard."
What did you think of Morgan's premiere?
-- Scott Collins
Top photo: Piers Morgan. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images
Bottom photo: Sarah Palin. Credit: Carlos Osorio / Associated Press