JMac: I hope my talk show survives

Tennis Fool
10-31-2004, 04:17 AM
October 31, 2004
Disadvantage: McEnroe

John McEnroe won Wimbledon three times and the United States Open four times, but his dominance as a tennis player and success as a network analyst have not translated into an audience for his prime-time talk show on CNBC. It attracted its largest audience, 266,000 viewers, on its opening night, in July, has gone as low as 21,000, and has an overall average of 74,000, compared with Greta Van Susteren's average of 1.8 million at the same hour on Fox News. "McEnroe" is being run by its third executive producer, the network having parted ways with a talk show veteran, Woody Fraser, last month. Mr. McEnroe responded to questions from Richard Sandomir about his show's problems without screaming or calling him the pits of the world.

What's gone wrong?

CNBC's ratings dropped 20 percent when the market went down. Some of the people we wanted were people who watched during the day, and 95 percent of our promotion comes during [the business news and talk show] "Squawk Box."

So it's all about promotion?

We haven't had a promotion on NBC during "Law & Order." Look at NBC Universal: they have NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and Bravo. I need to get in line to get a chance.

What about the show has needed the most improvement?

The beginning. You have to be conversational and be yourself, and in the beginning, I had to find out how to do that.

You believe the show is headed in the right direction.

I think we've been better since we buckled down with this new group. I always knew it would take time. Do I wish ratings were high enough that people wouldn't take potshots at me, like I wasn't even on the radar and only three people were watching? Sure.

Have people had trouble accepting you as a talk-show host?

That was always going to be an issue. At least the feedback is, they're starting to accept that I won't go out and yell at someone.

Has CNBC said how patient they will be?

My contract is for one year, with a second year at their option. After nine months, they can choose to keep me. In my mind it's six to nine months, but I hope they'll stick with me, like Dennis Miller, who was renewed after hitting eight or nine months.

10-31-2004, 04:59 AM