Larry King made it official Tuesday night: After 25 years of conducting high profile interviews on CNN, he will end his nightly show this fall. As King put it in a blog post, "it's time to hang up my nightly suspenders."
The move will give ratings-troubled CNN another shot at trying to re-boot part of its prime-time lineup starting this fall. Make no doubt about it, CNN is now in a period of major re-invention.
Here's the explanation the 76-year-old cable TV pioneer posted on his blog at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday:
King's announcement comes as CNN has started taking major steps in trying to improve its woefully weak prime-time ratings.
Last week, CNN president Jon Klein announced that disgraced former New York Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer and Pulitzer-Prize-winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker would co-host a new 8 p.m. nightly discussion show starting in the fall.
They replace Campbell Brown who stepped down saying in a nice way that she was tired of getting her brains beat out in the ratings by Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. While Olbermann's ratings have suffered this year, O'Reilly is the highest rated cable news host in prime time.
Now, CNN will have the chance to re-invent the 9 p.m hour as well with King leaving. CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric was rumored as a possible replacement for King, but she said this week that she is not a candidate for the job.
Second quarter Nielsen ratings were released on Tuesday and the audience survey brought only more pain for CNN. The brand that once stood for cable news took another pasting and was reminded once again that it is no longer competitive in any ratings way, shape or form with Fox News, which has 10 of the Top 10 cable TV shows. And the news is only getting worse and worse in prime time.
Sean Hannity, of Fox News, who goes head to head with King at 9 p.m., is the second highest rated host in cable prime time behind O'Reilly. Rachel Maddow, who debuted in 2008 on the eve of the presidential election, quickly established herself and continues to be a solid ratings performer for MSNBC at 9.
Meanwhile, King's ratings have further declined this year, and even though he continued to get big-name guests, his interviews seemed softer and more off the mark in terms of news value that ever. The disconnect between his show and the rest of the CNN prime-time lineup was especially pronounced on nights of big political news. Some analysts believed that CNN's Anderson Cooper would never find a substantial audience at 10 p.m. as long as he had the celebrity-soft King show as a lead-in.
In the last year, King made more news for his own marital issues than he did for anything that happened during interviews on his show, as he filed for divorce and then reconciled with his eighth wife.
CNN has its work cut out for itself in trying to get competitive in prime time again, and the longer it stuck with King, the deeper the hole it had to try and dig its way out of. At least, King's departure will not be a messy and ugly one -- and in this day and age of nasty media, that's no small matter.
King came to CNN in 1985 after hosting a popular and enduring overnight radio show out of Washington. Ted Turner, the eccentric founder of CNN, personally talked King into giving cable TV a try.
King quickly became an iconic figure on cable TV, there is no doubt about that. He was one of the first faces that hundreds of thousands of viewers associated with CNN and cable news.
During his time at CNN, King won an Emmy and two Peabody Awards.
Here's a memo CNN President Jon Klein sent to staffers Tuesday announcing King's retirement: