February 01, 2011 at 05:18 PM EST

After plenty of sound and fury surrounding the debut of Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, the ratings are telling a story that’s both better (and worse) than what you may have previously heard.

If you saw the initial news stories touting Morgan drawing more than 2.1 million viewers for his interview with Oprah Winfrey, then the host’s current performance is disappointing. Morgan’s recent nightly average is down about 67 percent from his highly publicized debut.

But if you’ve seen reports saying the Brit is doing worse than his predecessor, Larry King, well, that’s no longer right either…

Though a couple of Morgan’s performances have ranked below the ex-CNN chat host’s average, the past four shows have, overall, averaged 663,000 viewers — nearly identical to King’s fourth quarter performance.

Among adults 25-54 — the news nets’ preferred demo — he’s actually up a bit, averaging 200,000 to King’s 170,000.

Talk shows are marathons, not sprints, etc., but the very earliest conclusion we can make is that CNN viewership in Morgan’s time slot has matched what it was before he took over, which isn’t a terrible starting point for Morgan to potentially grow an audience.

Read more:

Madonna isn’t the only famous person Piers Morgan has barred from his new CNN show. Who else is on the blacklist?

Piers Morgan’s six reasons to watch his new CNN show: He’ll be unpredictable, have global impact, make Simon Cowell cry

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