Larry King, the broadcasting pioneer and longtime host of CNN's Larry King Live, announced June 29 that he will end his 25-year run behind the iconic microphone and "hang up his nightly suspenders."
King first made the announcement in a blog post on his show site, writing: "I talked to the guys here at CNN and I told them I would like to end Larry King Live, the nightly show, this fall and CNN has graciously accepted, giving me more time for my wife and I to get to the kids' little league games."
Once competitive at 9 p.m., King's ratings have been in decline in recent years. Fox News' Sean Hannity leads the time slot among cable news competition. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has overtaken King while Joy Behar, on CNN sister network HLN, also occasionally out-rates Larry King Live. King is also weathering personal problems; King and his seventh wife Shawn King filed for divorce earlier this year, but more recently announced they are attempting to reconcile.
The announcement caps weeks of speculation about the 76-year-old King, whose contract is up in spring 2011, and what CNN will do with the 9 p.m. hour. America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan is in the running to succeed King, according to sources. Similar speculation previously has focused on Ryan Seacrest and Katie Couric. Sources close to Couric contend that she is no longer interested in stepping into another also-ran program.
CNN is in the midst of re-examining its primetime line-up following the exit of 8 p.m. host Campbell Brown, who has trailed in the ratings behind Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. Brown made her own announcement several weeks ago attributing her pending departure to her show's dismal ratings.
The network announced last week that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker will slide into the 8 p.m. hour, co-hosting a roundtable show set to bow this fall.
In an e-mail to CNN staffers, CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein called King "a giant in the industry for as long as most of us can remember."
"Anyone who ever mattered has sat for an interview on Larry's iconic set," Klein continued. "They all know the man it is our privilege to call our colleague and friend--tireless and curious, respectful and inquisitive, caring, generous, influential, a citizen of the world."
King broke the news to TV viewers at the top of his show on Tuesday.
"I'm incredibly proud that we recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest running show with the same host in the same time slot," said King. "With this chapter closing I'm looking forward to the future and what my next chapter will bring, but for now it's time to hang up my nightly suspenders."
King told guest Bill Maher, "There was no pressure form CNN. I love what I do. It's time."
He will remain at CNN where he will be afforded emeritus status; fronting periodic specials for the network.
Asked about King's time slot last week, Klein contended that he was focused on the 8 p.m. hour. But with King's departure pegged for November, he must now focus on the 9 p.m. hour.
In his e-mail to staffers Klein added: "Today is about Larry. We'll announce plans for the 9 p.m. hour in the weeks ahead."