01 July 2010

Larry King to Quit Show this Fall

The Wall Street Journal

CNN Ratings at all-time low

Larry King said Tuesday that he will end his nightly talk show on CNN in the fall, after a quarter century marked by high-profile interviews, and more recently by sagging ratings.

"It's time to hang up the nightly suspenders," Mr. King, 76, said at the top of his 9 p.m. show Tuesday, adding that he would continue to host "while a replacement is found."

Mr. King's "Larry King Live" has long been CNN's flagship prime-time show. The native New Yorker, who made his CNN debut in 1985, became one of the most recognizable interviewers of all time, donning his trademark suspenders and lobbing questions across the table to U.S. presidents, world leaders and celebrities.

Mr. King's departure comes as the Time Warner Inc. news network is making moves to reverse a long slide in its prime-time viewership, falling far behind Fox News and often below General Electric Co.'s MSNBC, according to figures from Nielsen Co. Fox News is owned by News Corp., which also owns the Wall Street Journal.

Last week, CNN announced that it is bringing on former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to co-host a new evening show in the 8 p.m. hour, replacing the Campbell Brown, who said she was leaving because of her poor ratings.

In a memo to CNN staff, CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein said that Mr. King "is not leaving CNN" and that he would continue to appear in periodic specials on the network.

CNN said in a statement that it would announce plans for its 9 p.m. hour in "the weeks ahead." A spokeswoman said in an email that there are "a number of options."

Reports in the British press have speculated that "America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan could be in line to take over Mr. King's job. John Ferriter, Mr. Morgan's manager and a former agent for Mr. King, declined to comment on Mr. Morgan's plans, but described Mr. King as "a legend in the business."

Meanwhile, Katie Couric, whose contract to anchor the "CBS Evening News" expires around the end of May 2011, has not ruled out moving to CNN, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. King's show has seen its ratings sag significantly this year, but did see a bump in June among viewers between 25 and 54 years old, according to CNN. Nevertheless, his average audience among those viewers was still less than half that of Fox News's Sean Hannity and trailed MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, his competition in the 9 p.m. hour.

During Tuesday night's show, former first lady Nancy Reagan, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and TV host Regis Philbin each called in to speak with Mr. King about his departure.

"I'll miss your suspenders, I'll miss your voice, I'll miss everything," Mr. Philbin said.

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