OK. So now that it looks like former British tabloid journalist and “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan is officially pretty much probably almost definitely going to take over Larry King’s 9 p.m. time slot on CNN, let’s quickly recap how this thing played out from start to finish.Page Six and The Telegraph first reported in mid-June that CNN was in talks with Morgan about replacing King — who had not yet revealed he would be leaving his long-running program — with a panel show at 9 p.m. CNN denied the rumours. And then they (and by “they,” we mean CNN president Jon Klein) denied the rumours again a few weeks later when Klein told Broadcasting & Cable: “We never have negotiated with Piers.” That was June 30, the same day King announced, “I would like to end ‘Larry King Live,’ the nightly show, this fall.”
But oops! The next day, on July 1, “American Idol’s” Simon Cowell, who’s buddies with Morgan, let it slip that, “[Morgan] was under contract to us on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ so he called me and we helped sort of broker the deal … I knew about this weeks ago.” That led CNN to once again deny deny deny, and others to suggest that the network really didn’t have a good handle on this whole PR thing.
Which brings us to yesterday, July 13, when insiders confirmed with various reporters that Morgan at 9 p.m. was basically a done deal.
The New York Times’ Brian Stelter and Bill Carter got the credit for the story, overshadowing poor Hunter Walker over at The Wrap, who beat them by about half an hour with the initial scoop, a distinction he proudly displayed on his Tumblr. (We probably would have, too.)
So anyway, here’s the deal in a nutshell, via The Times’ report:
Piers Morgan, the bad-cop judge on the hit NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” is poised to take over Larry King‘s coveted time slot on CNN, a move smoothed by an imminent deal between the two media giants that own the channels, NBC Universal and Turner Broadcasting.
This week, NBC signaled that it was willing to share Mr. Morgan with CNN. That decision frees Mr. Morgan to negotiate directly with CNN, and according to three people involved in the delicate manoeuvring between the companies, a contract could be signed within a few days.
If completed, the deal would vault Mr. Morgan, a native of Britain, into the top tier of television interviewers, alongside people like Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Katie Couric. It will also demonstrate that CNN thinks there is still room in prime time for long-form interviews with public servants and starlets, a stark contrast to the partisan pundits on its higher-rated rivals, Fox News and MSNBC.
The Times updated the story this morning by reporting that Morgan will continue judging “America’s Got Talent” through 2013, which NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker confirmed when he appeared on “Morning Joe.” Zucker said:
Piers will continue on “America’s Got Talent” for the next three years. That I can tell you. Having said that, I can also tell you he has approached us about asking us to do another job as well and those conversations are continuing … I don’t think [the two jobs are] mutually exclusive.
Assuming this actually plays out with Morgan at CNN, he will be expected to revive the dismal ratings that have brought down King, whose audience hit a 20-year low in May, lingering around 700,000 viewers.
And then there’s the question of how CNN will handle the announcement without looking silly once it’s official. (A CNN spokesperson declined to comment when contacted Tuesday afternoon by The Upshot’s Michael Calderone.)
It appears CNN is going to get Piers Morgan. But that’s not all they’ll get. They’ll also get a lot of questions aimed at them by a MSM Media Writer contingent who, rightly or wrongly, probably thinks it either got played or lied to. They aren’t interested in nuance and what the definition of the word “is” is. And that’s not good for CNN which will want to put Morgan out front of a press which is probably more sceptical of the network’s statements than it was three months ago.
We’ll see what happens if and when that contract gets signed.
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