The Biz: Who Will Be the Next Cable News King?
Ryan Seacrest, Katie Couric
There will never be another Larry King. Gone are the days when a guy from Brooklyn who addictively plays the horses and gets married eight times can fall into TV stardom. CNN is hunting down some big names to fill King's suspenders in prime time. Here's the lowdown on who is being considered and why.
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PRO King has let it be known that the American Idol host would be his choice as a successor. Seacrest is an indefatigable live broadcaster who is quick on his feet and certainly knows how to wring emotion out of an interview.
CON Seacrest might be too breezy, even as a King replacement, as CNN has worked hard to position itself as the cable channel most committed to serious news. Seacrest is also under contract with E! Entertainment Television, which has him exclusively for cable.
PRO While CNN has not officially negotiated with Morgan, TV-news insiders say he is the current leading candidate. The America's Got Talent judge is not known as a newsman in the U.S., but Morgan is well-established in the U.K. as a witty, engaging and penetrating interviewer. Most recently he's hosted ITV's Life Stories, which presents King-style one-on-one chats in front of a studio audience. "He's a likable personality who has a flair for making his interview subjects larger than life," says a former network news executive who has seen Morgan's work. "And he doesn't ask the same questions that everyone else asks."
CON American TV viewers tend to like their Brits behind a judges dais on reality shows or as actors speaking with an American accent. Whether they take to one as the signature talent for a cable news network is open to question. "With the BP crisis in the Gulf, the last thing people are going to want to hear at 9pm is someone with a British accent to tell them about it," says one veteran producer.
PRO Viewers who have missed the freewheeling side of Couric since she left NBC's Today to toil as anchor on the CBS Evening News would welcome her in an hourlong interview program. Her star power and comfort level with both hard news and celebrity interviews make her best equipped for Larry King Live's long-running format. "She would be great at it and she would increase the audience," says a producer who has worked with Couric.
CON There is a school of thought in TV news circles that the decline of Larry King and CNN's overall prime-time ratings is due to a shift in the habits of the cable news audience. News junkies know the top stories from the Internet or their mobile phones and are more likely to watch personalities with a strong point of view in the evening. Couric isn't known for partisan opinions, and friends say she's not thrilled with the idea of trying to revive a flagging CNN. After all, she was unable to move the ratings needle on the CBS Evening News (where she is under a $15 million—a—year contract well into 2011).
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