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March 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Jake Tapper may be “the face of the new CNN,” as CNN chief Jeff Zucker described him recently, but he failed to draw many new faces as his The Lead debuted on the cable network on Monday. In fact, the 4:00 p.m. show drew fewer total viewers than Wolf Blitzer did during the same period a week earlier. Tapper’s 400,000-person audience was smaller than Fox’s (1.1 million), HLN (779,000, and MSNBC (479,000). Particularly worrisome for CNN — and Zucker — may be the fact that ordinarily the debut of a new talk-show series produces outsized ratings as viewers sample what the series has to offer, then settles down to a consistent level after a few weeks. The problem with The Lead may simply have been that it appears to be merely a moderate departure from Blitzer’s show, which emphasized politics. Even the conventional spelling of the title — journalists tend to refer to the summary sentence at the beginning of their articles as the “lede” — seemed to reflect the unadventurous approach. But Variety‘s Bryan Lowry gave Tapper a solid review, concluding, “Nice start. Let’s hope you can keep it up.”