Plunge in ratings sees CNN pull plug on Piers Morgan

Former British tabloid editor is dropped from primetime talk show after proving a big turn-off for US viewers since taking over from Larry King

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:37am


CNN president Jeff Zucker has ended Piers Morgan's television show after its ratings plunged, sources at the network said.

The former British tabloid editor - who angered conservative Americans after launching a crusade for greater gun control measures - struggled after stepping into the shoes of popular, down-to-earth host Larry King in the coveted 9pm primetime slot.

King, an 80-year-old talk show star, is known for his ability to connect immediately and easily with ordinary Americans.

He hosted Larry King Live on CNN from 1985 to 2010, wearing his trademark wide-rimmed glasses and shirt with rolled-up sleeves. Morgan, in contrast, was inherently British and not just in his accent. In particular, he made repeated references to cricket, a sport which is little-known in the US, and professed his ignorance about American football and preference for soccer.

"CNN confirms that Piers Morgan Live is ending," CNN vice-president of communications Barbara Levin said on Sunday. "The date of the final programme is still to be determined."

US media reports said the show could end as early as next month, but that Morgan may stay with CNN in another role.

In an interview with The New York Times, Morgan said the show had "run its course", adding that he and Zucker "have been talking for some time about different ways of using me".

He also acknowledged the show was underperforming.

"It's been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings," Morgan said. He added that the show suffered especially on slow news days.

"Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarising, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it," he added.

Morgan, whose contract ends in September, said he was considering a different role at CNN where he would have fewer, but higher-impact appearances, such as through major interviews with "big celebrities and powerful people".

Morgan was editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1995 to 2004 and before that was editor of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World, which closed amid a phone hacking scandal in 2011.

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, two of the News of the World's subsequent editors - who are both close associates of Prime Minister David Cameron - are on trial in London accused of conspiracy to hack phones between 2000 and 2006.

Morgan has denied ever being involved in illegal phone hacking, but revealed that he was interviewed by detectives after voluntarily going to a London police station in December.

Gun rights activists posted a petition on the White House website in December 2012 calling for Morgan to be deported.

They alleged he had attacked the Second Amendment rights of ordinary Americans after making anti-gun comments.

The petition was posted after Morgan told gun advocate Larry Pratt during an interview: "You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you?"

America has suffered an epidemic of gun violence over the last three decades. The vast majority of weapons used have been semi-automatic weapons obtained legally by the killers.

Additional reporting by Reuters