CNN’s Piers Morgan Aims to ‘Kick Butt’ Against Murdoch

Piers Morgan, the former tabloid editor who succeeds CNN talk-show host Larry King this month, enjoyed competing with News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch and hopes to “kick his butt” going up against cable leader Fox News.

“To be in this new jungle you have to make noise and I intend to make noise,” Morgan, 45, said today at a meeting of television critics in Pasadena, Calif. “No question that CNN is getting its butt kicked in prime time by Fox and MSNBC, and I intend to turn that around. I enjoyed competing with Rupert Murdoch before and I hope to kick his butt.”

Morgan takes over on Jan. 17. His arrival comes after “Larry King Live,” the dominant prime-time cable news program in the 1990s, fell behind Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. In 2010, King averaged 671,000 viewers for Time Warner Inc.-owned CNN, according to Nielsen Co. data, down 38 percent from 2009’s 1.1 million and from 1.6 million in 1998.

“Morgan may reverse some of the audience erosion that Larry King had last season,” Brad Adgate, senior vice president of the advertising company Horizon Media, said in an interview. “The cable landscape has become so competitive of late and every year it gets harder and harder to get any traction.”

Oprah Winfrey will be Morgan’s first guest. The show will travel to London for the April 29 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Morgan said he won’t have Madonna on his show.

“Lady Gaga is twice as good, half her age and twice as hot,” Morgan said. “I’d rather have her.” His best interview ever was with Simon Cowell, the former judge on TV’s “American Idol,” because “I made him cry.”

CNN Schedule

“Piers Morgan Live” will be the second major change to CNN’s prime-time lineup in recent months. In October, the network replaced Campbell Brown with a show hosted by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker.

“Parker Spitzer” has been a “ratings disappointment,” and won’t provide much of a lead-in for Morgan, said Adgate, who is based in New York. “Parker Spitzer” averages 472,000 viewers, compared with 545,000 who watched Campbell Brown before she was canceled in 2010, according to data from Nielsen Co.

King interviewed former President Bill Clinton on his final show on Dec. 16, and was bid farewell by a list of celebrities he had interviewed, including Donald Trump, Regis Philbin and President Barack Obama, who called the host “one of the giants of broadcasting.”

Morgan, born in Surrey, England, is known primarily to U.S. viewers for his role as a judge on NBC’s variety show “America’s Got Talent.” He was also the host of “Piers Morgan’s Life Stories,” a British interview program.

‘Penetrating Style’

“He will bring his penetrating interview style and gift for unearthing the surprising detail to American television and to CNN viewers around the world,” CNN said in announcing Morgan’s hiring on Sept. 8.

Prior to TV, Morgan was a reporter who, as a 28-year-old, was named editor of New of the World, Murdoch’s British tabloid newspaper. He was later editor-in-chief of the Daily Mirror.

Time Warner, based in New York, rose 10 cents to $33.27 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares rose 10 percent last year. Fox News parent News Corp., led by Murdoch, fell 4 cents to $14.81 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ronald Grover in Los Angeles at rgrover5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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