"America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan appears to be the front-runner to claim the CNN talk show long hosted by Larry King, and he has won permission from NBC, which airs the hit talent contest, to pursue the CNN job.
Appearing Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker noted that Morgan is contractually bound to continue on "America's Got Talent" for three more years.
"Having said that, I can also tell you that he has approached us about asking us to do another job as well," said Zucker, without naming CNN or its talk show soon to be vacated by King.
"I don't think they're mutually exclusive," Zucker said.
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However, the CNN job, were Morgan to land it, would occupy "second position" in his work priority, according to an industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the host changeover.
No negotiations have yet begun between CNN and Morgan, said another industry official who requested anonymity because that person also wasn't authorized to speak publicly.
Along with such candidates as Katie Couric and Ryan Seacrest, Morgan has been considered a favorite to replace King, who on June 29 announced his departure from the prime-time perch he has occupied for a quarter century. King, 76, said he would step down from his weeknight show this fall.
The choice of an heir to the 9 p.m. Eastern slot is a crucial one for CNN as it struggles to boost its sagging prime-time ratings. Also, part of CNN's mission is presumably to restore the luster of what was "Larry King Live" as a go-to place for newsmakers and celebrities. In recent years, many observers had begun to wonder if King was losing his step as well as his audience.
Morgan, now King's likely successor, would bring a sharper-edged sensibility to a show entrenched in King's easygoing, regular-Joe style.
Morgan is a 45-year-old former British tabloid editor who turned to television several years ago. He has since been seen hosting such varied series as "You Can't Fire Me, I'm Famous" for BBC and doing interview shows and documentaries for ITV. He has been a judge on "Britain's Got Talent" and its U.S. spinoff, "America's Got Talent." In 2008, he won the competition as a contestant on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice."