What a sad day for Larry King. First, the Q2 cable ratings were released in the early afternoon, with CNN posting another double-digit year-to-year drop led by Larry King Live, which drew a mere 677,000 viewers and posted CNN’s biggest year-to-year demo loss of -37%. A couple of hours later, King announced that he will leave his nightly talk show in the fall after 25 years. (Larry King Stepping Down From CNN Talk) Year-to-date, King’s viewership is down -43%. On any network, such huge ratings declines would warrant a cancellation. But Larry King Live continued to be CNN’s top-rated program.
If Larry King had his way, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest would succeed him. “He’s curious, he’s interesting, he’s likable,” King told guest Bill Maher tonight. “If he has a great interest in politics, I would recommend him. But I’m sure there’s a ton of people who could do it. Come on, it’s Q&A.” Still, it’s very telling that two reality stars, Seacrest and America’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan (who was tipped by the British press two weeks ago as King’s replacement), are in the running for the most prestigious show on a network dedicated to news and politics. CBS Evening News host Katie Couric’s name also has been part of the mix, with conflicting reports on whether she is interested or not. Her contract with CBS is up next year. Inside CNN, the two obvious candidates are Joy Behar, whose talk show on HLN is a rare bright spot on CNN’s ratings reports, and CNN’s lead primetime anchor Anderson Cooper, whose 2Q ratings dropped 30% from last year.
It’s sad to see King go as he was the last vestige of the old glory days of CNN when the network ruled the TV news world. His influence reached beyond America’s primetime talk show circuit where he was the king interviewer for a quarter of a century. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the first Western TV network allowed in my native communist Bulgaria was CNN, and all of us aspiring journalists wanted to be like Larry. Every male TV talk host back then was wearing suspenders.