Piers Morgan Gets NBC Approval to Talk to CNN About Replacing Larry King

Piers Morgan, the “America’s Got Talent” judge, has been given approval by NBC to hold negotiations with Time Warner Inc.’s CNN to replace talk-show host Larry King.

NBC relaxed Morgan’s exclusivity agreement to allow him to talk to CNN, Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said today at a Television Critics Association event in Los Angeles. Joe Schlosser, an NBC spokesman, confirmed Gaspin’s comments.

NBC’s consent was needed before CNN could begin negotiating directly with Morgan, because he is under contract as a judge for the broadcaster’s most-watched reality TV program. Morgan is the former editor of the Daily Mirror in the U.K.

CNN, the 24-hour cable news network, is in need of a host that can reinvigorate the 9 p.m. hour occupied by “Larry King Live” after viewers defected to rival networks such as Fox News. King, who interviewed presidents and Hollywood big shots on CNN for the last 25 years, is stepping down in the fourth quarter of this year.

Barbara Levin, a spokeswoman for CNN, declined to comment.

“Larry King Live,” which is in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the longest-running show with the same host in the same time slot, had a 40 percent ratings decline this year through June, according to data from researcher Nielsen Co.

Time Warner rose 20 cents to $31.46 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have climbed 8 percent this year. Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co., the parent of NBC Universal, fell 3 cents to $16.12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Rabil in New York at srabil@bloomberg.net

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