LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Piers Morgan, the CNN primetime host whose efforts to provide the network with a new type of celebrity-interview show met with ratings headwinds, has officially left the cable news channel after declining a new two-year deal that would have made him the host of a sporadic interview series.
"I was offered a new 2-year deal by CNN boss Jeff Zucker to host 40 big interview 'specials,'" Morgan said via Twitter. "But after considerable thought, I decided not to accept it - and to try pastures new."
Morgan began anchoring the network's 9 p.m. slot starting in January of 2011, replacing the durable "Larry King Live" with a celebrity-interview show that did not always hit the target with CNN viewers. The program, in which Morgan could be seen breaking away from conversations with perplexed guests like Gregg Allman to ask if they had inadvertently given him a scoop in their responses, proved to be fodder for satire on "Saturday Night Live." Morgan also used the program to rally against the National Rifle Association.
"I knew this kind of outburst wouldn't endear me to gun-loving Americans, but I'd do it all over again," he tweeted on Tuesday, linking to a debate on gun control following the Newton elementary shooting.
In 2013, his show, "Piers Morgan Live" basically stayed flat with 2012 performance. Morgan's program notched a 1% gain in total viewers, to 597,000 compared with 590,000 a year earlier, and a 2% hike in the 25-to-54 demo, to 173,000 from 170,000. In February of this year, CNN announced it would yank the show off the air, and replaced it in March, largely with some of its documentary series or hour-long looks at breaking news.
Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper, who helped form the backbone of CNN's primetime lineup with Morgan, remain on the air in the CNN's 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. hours, respectively.
An agent for Mr. Morgan, John Ferriter of Octagon Entertainment Management, could not be reached for immediate comment on what next steps Morgan might be considering. Morgan was formerly editor of Britain's News of the World and Daily Mirror and also a judge on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Morgan's departure comes at a time of major transition for CNN under Zucker. The all-news cabler is also bracing for staff layoffs in the coming weeks as part of a larger cost-cutting initiative across Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting unit.