UPDATE 3PM: I’ve learned more about how CNN’s deal with Piers Morgan transpired. Despite the fact that speculation about Morgan replacing Larry King had been dragging on all summer, it actually took about two weeks to negotiate his deal, two weeks from the moment CNN made the offer to the moment it was done.
But of course there was a lot of groundwork to be laid out before CNN was allowed to make an offer, primarily concerning Morgan’s obligation to NBC’s America’s Got Talent where he serves as a judge. I hear for NBC the main issues were scheduling, as Morgan will have to juggle filming for both shows, as well as competition, as Morgan’s CNN show will air at 9 PM, going against NBC’s primetime, and on occasion during the summer he will go against himself on Talent. With some understanding from NBC brass and the Talent producers, Simon Cowell and FremantleMedia, as well as a new 3-year deal Morgan inked with NBC to continue as a judge on the reality series, that hurdle was overcome. And despite some speculation, the pact doesn’t involve Morgan doing additional duties for NBC. And as if getting two congloms, NBC Universal and CNN parent Time Warner, to work together on the deal was not enough, there was another factor that put negotiations on hold for awhile, Morgan’s late June wedding.
Morgan’s Talent boss and longtime friend Simon Cowell, of course, helped him get the blessing of the show’s producers to go to CNN. But I hear Cowell’s impact might have been much bigger; he was the reason Morgan pursued the gig in the first place. Morgan has interviewed Cowell, including on his British talk show Life Stories early this year. I hear Cowell told Morgan at the end of last year: “You are a good judge but you’re a much better interviewer.”
There had been sporadic overtures to Morgan about doing an U.S. interview series in the past, including one from Ben Silverman while he was running NBC. But Morgan started seriously plotting doing his own American talk show early this year, after that remark by Cowell. He approached CNN with the idea and, after some back-and-forth, he met with top executives including CNN/US president Jon Klein, at the end of April. I was told the meeting was strictly about him doing an interview show on the network, not about replacing Larry King. It went very well, and CNN brass were very interested. Around the time King announced his exit in late June, conversation between the network and Morgan intensified and became focused on launching a show that would replace Larry King Live.
I hear Morgan pitched his own chat show only to CNN. “It’s like Pepsi and Coke, he happens to like CNN and their brand,” a source said. “He grew up watching Larry King, and he likes the fact that CNN has the breaking-news style.”
Morgan’s new daily CNN show adds to an already full plate that includes his judging duties on America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent, his Life Stories talk show and regular columns for the Mail on Sunday. CNN said he will continue his columns for the Mail while also posting regular columns on CNN.com.
But to maintain some sort of life, he may have to give up on some commitments. He is staying put on America’s Got Talent and Life Stories, I hear the rest is up in the air. But while his workload might be daunting, Morgan’s stints as editor-in-chief of The Daily Mirror and editor of News of the World prepared him for it, a source said. “The good thing is he spent over a decade working 16 hours a day 6 days a week. He is a guy who is no stranger to hard work, he loves it and craves it.”
Morgan’s deal with CNN was negotiated by Octagon’s John Ferriter.
PREVIOUS 8:45AM: After months of negotiations, CNN announced this morning that it has closed a deal with Piers Morgan to succeed Larry King as a primetime host next January. Brit Morgan, a judge on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, will host a yet-untitled interview show weekdays at 9 p.m. Morgan will be based in New York, but also will work from Los Angeles and London.
“Piers has made his name posing tough questions to public figures, holding them accountable for their words and deeds,” said CNN-US President Jon 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.”
King announced this summer that he was leaving his nightly talk show after 25 years. The announcement came shortly after the British tabloids wrote that CNN had approached Morgan to replace him. A deal between CNN and Morgan’s U.S. employer, NBC, cleared the way for him to join the cable news channel.
“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,” Morgan said. “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.”
It is worth to note that Morgan made the only mention of King in CNN’s press release. While releasing a photo of King and Morgan together, the network, which, in my opinion, botched the announcement of King’s departure in July, stayed clear of mentioning King or his show while announcing his successor.
Morgan, 45, began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter in the United Kingdom. In 1994, at age 28, Morgan became the youngest editor ever at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. He also served as editor-in-chief for the Daily Mirror before becoming a television personality, hosting interview programs on the BBC and ITV. Simon Cowell then hired him as on a judge on his Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent.