Piers Morgan confirmed as successor to Larry King at 9 p.m. on CNN
The latest worst-kept secret in TV was finally confirmed this morning, as CNN revealed that America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan is set to succeed Larry King in CNN's weeknight 9 p.m. timeslot in January 2011.
No name was announced for the show, which will presumably follow a one-on-one interview format similar to the shows he has hosted in his native Britain. Morgan is also expected to continue writing columns for the British newspaper The Daily Mail along with occasional columns for CNN.com.
In order to secure the deal, CNN had to agree that Morgan's work with NBC on Talent would take precedence. So, although he's expected to be based in New York when the unscripted talent show isn't in production, he may tape his shows in Los Angeles during the months that Talent is in production.
The move is a big one for CNN, which has seen King's interviews serve as a fading flagship for years. Morgan, long considered a bright talented broadcaster, has guest hosted segments on the Today show and Live with Regis and Kelly but has little profile in the United States as an interviewer or television host.
The open question: How will CNN's brand change with a British reality show judge as its top new talent in prime time?
CNN has suffered serious ratings challenges in recent years, as its non-partisan reporting format has lagged against the consevative heroes on Fox News and MSNBC's growing liberal focus. Morgan has been known for snaring emotional, splashy interviews with celebrities and politicians in England, but the question of whether he can translate that into compelling TV for Americans also remains open.
Morgan comes with his own odd baggage. Made the youngest tab editor in the British journalism world at age 28, he had to leave his job as editor of the Daily Mirror in 2004 after the newspaper published photos purportedly of English soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners which turned out to be fake. Read my earlier column on what this might mean for CNN's brand here.
Combined with the new 8 p.m. Parker Spitzer show starting Oct. 4, Morgan's hire may represent the biggest Hail Mary programming change in CNN's history. And although many TV insuders caution against underestimating the hard-working and super smart Morgan, he'll be taking over a fading broadcast with a relatively new lead-in show facing an audience that has mostly seen him judge jugglers and oddball singers
Below is a clip from one of Morgan's British chat shows.
CNN's press release is below:
Piers Morgan to Host Prime Time Interview Program on CNN
Global media personality and veteran newspaper editor Piers Morgan will host a candid, in-depth newsmaker interview program on CNN beginning in January, it was announced today by Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. The new program will air weeknights on CNN/U.S. at 9 pm ET/PT and will air worldwide on CNN International in more than 200 countries.
Known to United States viewers primarily for his role as a judge on NBC’s No.1-rated America’s Got Talent and as the winner of Celebrity Apprentice, Morgan has had a long career in journalism in the United Kingdom as a newspaper editor and, more recently, as the host of the popular television interview program Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. He will now bring his penetrating interview style and gift for unearthing the surprising detail to American television and to CNN viewers around the globe.
“Piers has made his name posing tough questions to public figures, holding them accountable for their words and deeds,” said Klein. “He is able to look at all aspects of the news with style and humor with an occasional good laugh in the process. He is a natural fit with Anderson Cooper, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker in our prime time line up, and the ideal choice to update the storied tradition of newsmaker talk on CNN.”
Morgan began his career as a reporter for The Wimbledon News and then as a columnist at The Sun. In 1994, when Morgan was 28 years old, Rupert Murdoch appointed him the youngest ever editor of the News of the World, and the youngest national newspaper editor in Britain for 50 years. Two years later he moved to the Daily Mirror, where he served as editor-in-chief from 1995 until 2004. The paper won numerous journalistic awards including Newspaper of the Year at the prestigious British Press Awards in 2002 for its coverage of the 9/11 terrorist atrocity in New York. After his controversial departure from the Mirror, Morgan went on to become a best-selling author, a regular media columnist, and host of his own interview programs on the BBC and ITV, as well as appear as a judge alongside Simon Cowell on the No.1-rated show Britain’s Got Talent.
“I am thrilled to be joining CNN, and very much looking forward to bringing my own style of interviewing to the world’s biggest, and best, TV news organization,” said Morgan. “As a young journalist in Britain, I watched CNN’s astonishing live coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, and felt enthralled by the courage and brilliance of the journalists involved in that coverage. Years later, I watched Anderson Cooper’s visceral reports from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and felt equally enthralled by his passionate and relentless search for the truth. Perhaps most pertinently, I have watched Larry King Live for much of the last 25 years, and dreamed of one day filling the legendary suspenders of the man I consider to be the greatest TV interviewer of them all. To now have the chance to work with Larry and Anderson, and to try and continue the outstanding journalistic legacy created by them, and so many others at CNN, is both a great honor, and a great challenge.”
After leaving the Daily Mirror, Morgan began writing a monthly interview column for GQ magazine where he interviewed some of the biggest names in global entertainment and politics. In 2004, he moved into television, co-hosting a Channel 4 current affairs show, Morgan & Platell, and two BBC interview shows, Tabloid Tales and You Can’t Fire Me I’m Famous. In 2008, Morgan joined ITV, where he hosted a documentary travelogue show called Piers On…, reporting from cities including Shanghai, Las Vegas and Dubai. He also developed a new talk show, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, where he conducts one-on-one intimate and lengthy sit-down interviews with celebrities, business and political leaders, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It has been consistently the No. 1-rated talk show in Britain for the last two years.
Morgan will continue to write his two regular columns for the Mail on Sunday newspaper – one on sports, the other a weekly diary of his life, and he will also provide regular columns to CNN.com.
Morgan is an accomplished author, writing eight books including three best-selling volumes of diaries: The Insider, Don’t You Know Who I Am, and the recently published God Bless America.
He is also co-founder and editorial director of First News, Britain’s first ever national newspaper for children.
Morgan re-married in June, to Celia Walden, and has three sons from his first marriage – Spencer, Stanley and Bertie.
He will be based in New York, and also work from Los Angeles and London.