Larry King Says He Will Step Down From CNN Talk Show

Larry King, who has interviewed presidents and Hollywood royalty on CNN for a quarter of a century, said he will end his nightly talk show.

“Larry King Live” will sign off in the fourth quarter, the 76-year-old host said yesterday in a statement posted on CNN’s website. Ratings for the show, which airs weeknights at 9 p.m. New York time, are off 40 percent this year, according to data from Nielsen Co.

Jon Klein, president of the network, said in an e-mailed statement that King was stepping down on his own terms.

“Larry has been a giant in the industry for as long as most of us can remember,” Klein said. “Anyone who ever mattered has sat for an interview on Larry’s iconic set.”

“Larry King Live” is listed in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot, King said. He plans to appear in CNN specials on national and international affairs and said ending the show will allow more time “for my wife and I to get to the kids’ Little League games.”

Time Warner Inc.’s CNN, once the leader in 24-hour TV news, doesn’t rank among the most-watched cable channels, according to Nielsen. News Corp.’s Fox News is the most-watched cable news outlet, averaging 2.11 million prime-time viewers a night this year, according to Nielsen.

‘End of an Era’

“It’s a great opportunity for CNN to reposition itself,” Brad Adgate, director of research at New York-based advertising firm Horizon Media Inc., said in an interview. “They have been suffering from declining ratings, especially this year. So it’s the end of an era but also the beginning of one.”

King’s show has averaged 723,000 viewers a night so far this year, down from 1.2 million in the same period a year ago, according to data from Nielsen.

Last week, the Wednesday night edition of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News was the most-watched cable news program, drawing 3.39 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

CNN didn’t announce plans for the time period.

“With this chapter closing, I’m looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders,” King said.

Time Warner, based in New York, fell 6 cents to $29.57 at 12:08 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares had gained 1.7 percent this year before today.

CNN said last week a show featuring Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, and columnist Kathleen Parker will replace Campbell Brown, who said in May she is ending her 8 p.m. news program.

Seacrest, Couric

“American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric and Piers Morgan, a judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” are potential replacements for King, the New York Times reported June 21, without citing a source for its information.

CNN may want to bring in a radio personality, following a successful formula used by Fox News for finding on-air talent, Adgate said. Before CNN, King was a radio personality.

“This decision is going to be a template for what the new CNN will be,” Adgate said. “Do they go with a newsmaker or an entertainer? There’s no easy answer.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

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