Why has Piers Morgan's CNN talk show been cancelled?

Feb 24, 2014

As ratings for prime-time show plummet, critics question if Morgan is just too British for the US

THREE years after taking over from Larry King's prime-time talk show on CNN, Piers Morgan has been axed. The network confirmed the news last night, while Morgan gave an interview to the New York Times saying that the final episode is likely to air next month. The former Daily Mirror editor seems keen to stay at the network, suggesting he might do "fewer appearances to greater effect", such as occasional high-profile interviews. So why has the show been cancelled?

Dismal ratings

Essentially, Morgan just couldn't bring in a big enough audience. His 9pm show debuted with two million viewers, but this has fallen to around 270,000 in recent weeks and regularly trails far behind rivals Fox News and MSNBC. It has become an "embarrassment to himself and executives and a lead weight on the network as a whole", says The Independent. Morgan himself admits it has been a "painful period" and says that "lately we have taken a bath in the ratings".

It was too British

New York Times journalist David Carr, who interviewed Morgan this weekend, suggests that "crossing an ocean" to replace Larry King was never a good idea. He says it is difficult for Morgan to "speak credibly on significant American events because, after all, he just got here". Old hands in the television news business suggest that there are two things a presenter cannot have: an accent or a beard, he adds. "Mr Morgan is clean shaven and handsome enough, but there are tells in his speech – the way he says the president's name for one thing (Ob-AA-ma) – that suggest that he is not from around here."

Cricket obsession

With Morgan's "Britishness", comes an obsession with cricket – a subject that is not helping his popularity in the US, says Carr. The presenter regularly takes to Twitter to talk about the game, and recently mounted a strong defence of Kevin Pietersen, who was sacked from the England cricket team. "Mr Morgan might want to lay off the steady cricket references if he is worried about his credibility with American audiences," says Carr. On top of that, he adds, the only football Morgan cares about "is round".

Anti-gun campaign

Morgan's lectures in favour of gun control have led to some high-profile on-air clashes and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for him to be deported, notes the Press Gazette. Morgan himself tells the New York Times: "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."

Phone-hacking allegations

Several newspapers point out that Morgan was interviewed under caution at the end of last year by British officers over phone-hacking allegations. In a statement earlier this month, Morgan confirmed that he had been questioned under caution by Scotland Yard detectives on 6 December. However, a spokeswoman for CNN denied that this was a factor in his dismissal. She told The Guardian. "The decision had nothing to do with the hacking interview – not at all."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

Gee, or maybe he was just too left-wing liberal? They never even thought about that one!

Spot on. Plus he is just too arrogant.

He's nowhere near as left wing as Rachel Madow on CNN and her ratings were climbing. During the same period she beat her conservative Fox competition for the first time. I don't think that was it. I agree with his gun stance - but his manner of lecturing about it appalled me.
I lived in another country several years ago, but would never have felt entitled to lecture its citizens about things I found wanting. Britain has had so many better representatives here !

Correction: Rachel Maddow is on the notoriously liberal MSNBC network. Not CNN. I believe MSNBC's ratings may be even lower - normally than CNN - except during the 9PM slot when Piers was scheduled. He did wonders for Maddow's ratings.

The problem with the Piers Morgan show wasn't so much the fact that he's "too British" or too "left-wing liberal" (because if America can accommodate right-wing media such as Fox then it can, and in fact needs to, accommodate left-wing media as well) and more to do with the fact that it featured Piers Moron.

Seriously, on British TV he's never done anyting heavier interview celebrities in a sort of "This Is Your Life: Reimagined" programme. And CNN gives him the American equivalent of Newsnight?

I can think of several people who would have done a better job than Piers.