Morgan will host an interview program at 9 p.m. New York time in the U.S. starting in January. The show will be seen in more than 200 countries, CNN said today in a statement.
Morgan, a former editor of British tabloid the Daily Mirror and winner of “Celebrity Apprentice,” will be charged with reinvigorating the 9 p.m. hour after viewers abandoned “Larry King Live” for rival networks such as Fox News. King, who interviewed presidents and celebrities on CNN for the past 25 years, announced in June his plans to step down in December.
“The ratings potential is very high,” Morgan said on a conference call with reporters. “I have not joined to come second, third or fourth. I like to be No. 1 and however long that takes is the game plan.”
Morgan, 45, said he wants to be “slightly dangerous, provocative and have a lot of laughs when appropriate” on the program, which will be a mix of live and pre-taped shows.
He said an ideal lineup would be Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf from the proposed Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site, followed by Mel Gibson, U.S. President Barack Obama and General David Petraeus the following nights. People he doesn’t want to interview: Heather Mills, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and Madonna.
‘Won’t Be Boring’
“What it won’t be is boring,” Morgan said. “I have lots of opinions about a lot of things. Do I want to shove them down people’s throats? Not at all. All I care about is ‘Who is the guest?’ and ‘What can I get out of it?’”
He has interviewed former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell on his TV show “Piers Morgan’s Life Stories” on the ITV network in the U.K. In 1994, he was appointed as the youngest editor of News Corp.’s News of the World at 28 years old, according to today’s statement. He served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004.
Hiring Morgan is part of a broader attempt to bolster sagging ratings at CNN. Once the leader in 24-hour news, it has lost ground to Fox News, the most-watched cable news outlet, and NBC Universal’s MSNBC.
CNN is also revamping prime time with the addition of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and Pulitzer Prize- winning print columnist Kathleen Parker. “Parker Spitzer” will make its debut Oct. 4 weeknights at 8 p.m., CNN said yesterday. Stronger ratings will follow high-quality work from Spitzer and Morgan, Jon Klein, president of CNN U.S., said on the conference call.
“We have a lineup of fearless, aggressive journalists who ask tough questions throughout the evening,” Klein said. “They will hold politicians accountable for their words and deeds. It’s a tough lineup to beat. They are a lineup that is beholden to no particular side.”
Morgan has worked alongside Cowell as a judge on “Britain’s Got Talent” and is better known in the U.S. as a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” NBC’s most-watched reality show. Morgan was given approval in July by General Electric Co.’s NBC to hold negotiations with CNN. He will still appear on the reality show, and “Life Stories” will continue on ITV.
“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, when King announced his departure, according to data from researcher Nielsen Co. King, 76, has said he will continue to host specials on the network. His last show will be Dec. 16, Klein said.
Time Warner, based in New York, rose 17 cents to $31 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have climbed 6.4 percent this year.
Morgan, who will be based in New York and also work from Los Angeles and London, will continue to write his two regular columns for the Mail on Sunday and write columns for CNN.com.