EXCLUSIVE: Piers Morgan’s last day hosting Piers Morgan Live will be March 28, after which CNN Worldwide chief Jeff Zucker is going to try out Michael Smerconish as well as Jake Tapper, Bill Weir, and Don Lemon in the time slot for a few weeks, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Deadline. We will actually see Weir fill in for Morgan in the time slot first, next week, but it will be just that — he’s filling in on Morgan’s show while Morgan takes a previously scheduled vacation, and he will return for one final week after that. Morgan and Zucker continue to talk about a future role for him at the network, the source said.
Morgan struggled for three years to find an audience in the important time slot, taking over for Larry King who’d been a longtime fixture at the network. Morgan was routinely beaten in the ratings by his cable competitors. His departure probably means the end of the time slot’s format — do not expect the four men to do the kind of show Morgan did, or King before him. Smerconish, Tapper and Lemon will continue to do the type of programs they’re already doing at CNN. And, the list may not be complete — Zucker may try out more talent in the slot, the source said.
Smerconish, a former Republican who worked in the George H. Bush administration and who most recently was an MSNBC contributor, is a recent addition to the CNN stable; the network announced just a month ago it was adding him to its Saturday morning lineup, as well as doing analysis and opinion on CNN programming throughout the week.
Lemon’s been at CNN the longest, having joined in ’06. Just days ago CNN announced it was giving Lemon a five-week primetime trial run at 10 PM with a weekly half-hour program, The Don Lemon Show. Tapper, former Senior White House Correspondent with ABC News, joined CNN in early ’13 as Chief White House Correspondent; he also hosts his weekday show The Lead with Jake Tapper. Another former ABC News journalist, Bill Weir co-anchored Nightline when CNN announced in October of ’13 he was joining the network as an anchor and Chief Innovation Correspondent. At that time, Mediaite reported Weir been promised all, or half, of Morgan’s timeslot, which CNN denied.