Why CNN may have pulled the plug on Piers Morgan

The British presenter was always going to be a tough sell in America, as ratings reflected

Everyone knew his daily chat show on the US television network CNN wasn’t working. You would be hard pressed even to argue that he has had a good run.

Tellingly, Piers Morgan, 48, who replaced the iconic Larry King just over three years ago in the same slot, isn’t pretending otherwise. Revealing late on Sunday to The New York Times media writer David Carr that his programme, Piers Morgan Live, would shut down shortly, probably sometime in March, he commented candidly: “It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings.”

The question is why. It was counter-intuitive for CNN to hire a Brit to plumb whatever is moving America on any particular night. Yet in him they had found a rare thing of a news man – he edited The Mirror for nine years – who after hosting various talent shows also entirely got the more tabloid side of broadcasting.

Arguably, Morgan did himself in over a year ago using his show relentlessly to hammer the supporters of gun rights in America, particularly the National Rifle Association (NRA), in the wake of the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut that killed 27 people, including 20 small children. On one occasion he called the head of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt, “dangerous”, “stupid” and an “idiot”.

His brashness on the topic provoked sufficient anger that a petition was sent to the White House, signed by 109,000 people, demanding that he be shipped back to London as punishment for attacking the Second Amendment to the Constitution. It was sufficient to prompt a reply from spokesman Jay Carney, who suggested that the plaintiffs also pay attention to the First Amendment protecting free speech.

 

The gun controversy encapsulated a problem that was there from the outset. Even if his own ratings had trailed off badly at the end, over a reign of 25 years King had commanded an audience that spanned all of America. Morgan seemed caught between different constituencies – the generally conservative Middle America and the more liberal independent republics of New York City and Los Angeles.

It turned out to be a balancing act for him and he got it wrong. CNN built fancy studios for Morgan in New York and Los Angeles. Everything in between are called the “flyover states” for a reason and perhaps Morgan should have thought to stop by them from time to time and not just for presidential debates. He might have learnt something about the whole America to which he was meant to be broadcasting. He surely knows this now. “Look, I am a British guy debating American cultural issues, including guns, which has been very polarising, and there is no doubt that there are many in the audience who are tired of me banging on about it,” he admitted to Mr Carr. By last week, his show was being watched by just 270,000 viewers and only 50,000 in the age group advertisers care about, from 25 to 54-years old.

This was hardly sustainable for CNN and its president Jeffrey Zucker. The competing programmes on Fox News and MSNBC took in two million and 900,000 respectively over the same period. Morgan has been sinking all of CNN’s ships during primetime and he clearly had to go. That said, Morgan said he is discussing other duties for CNN, like important interviews and breaking-news coverage.

“Jeff and I have been talking for some time about different ways of using me,” he said.

There was also something else – the phone-hacking cloud that had attached itself to Morgan dating back to his command of The Mirror. He has denied all knowledge of the practice but this month revealed he had (willingly) submitted to questioning by police in London last December. CNN has said the shuttering of his gig has nothing to do with the investigation.

If there is bitterness, it isn’t showing. His contract with the network runs until September, after all. But if Morgan ever writes a sequel to his already published memoir, he might muse on why CNN failed him too. Here is a network that is  bland compared with the opinionated ravings that are encouraged at MSNBC and Fox. Ravings get ratings and Morgan attempted a bit of it himself and got run over. One day he will reveal whether his producers in fact encouraged him to jump off the deep end on guns.

Ultimately, Morgan may have misfired because of that tricky matter of tone. Any expat Brit in America, let alone a chat show host, knows the narrowness of the territory that separates caustic British wit from tiresome British obnoxiousness.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

SThree: Internal Recruitment Consultant (In-House)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Are you an ambitious, money moti...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer - Peterborough - £18,000

£22000 - £23000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Graphic Designer...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Manager / Account Director – DSP / Ad tech / RTB

£50,000- £70,000 + commission : Sphere Digital Recruitment: This DSP is an onl...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower