Piers Morgan Closes In on Larry King’s Seat

CNN has one contract hurdle to clear before the “America’s Got Talent” judge takes over at 9 p.m.

CNN wants Piers Morgan to be its new man at 9 p.m., and is working to clear one final hurdle — an existing contract — before finalizing the move, TheWrap has learned.

An individual familiar with talks between the British journalist and the cable news network told TheWrap that they are in final stages. Both sides are eager to make it work, but getting Morgan out of one of his current commitments is the last remaining roadblock, the person said.

Morgan appears as a judge on "Britain's Got Talent" and "America's Got Talent," both FremantleMedia shows. "America's Got Talent" airs on NBC. Morgan also writes for the Daily Mail and stars in specials on British television.

Fremantle is not likely an obstacle, since "America's Got Talent" executive producer Simon Cowell told reporters earlier this month that he helped broker an agreement to get Morgan out of his existing contract. 

In addition to "America's Got Talent," Morgan has appeared on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice. His association with NBC may be making it tricky to bring him to CNN, given the persistent rumors that the cable network is in merger talks with CBS. NBC is not likely to let talent go to a rival that easily.

CNN and NBC both declined to comment. Fremantle and representatives for Morgan did not respond to requests for comment.

Whisperings that Morgan would take over the 9 p.m. time slot from Larry King came weeks before the veteran CNN host announced his departure on June 29.

King's exit comes at a difficult time for CNN. The network is currently suffering from high turnoverscandals, internal tensions and, worst of all, chronically low ratings.

On Tuesday, the network announced that anchor Rick Sanchez will fill in as an 8 p.m. host until a new show featuring Kathleen Parker and former New York governor Eliot Spitzer debuts in the fall. Spitzer and Parker were hired by CNN in June to replace Campbell Brown, who resigned after disappointing ratings.  

Signing an impact player at 8 p.m. is crucial if CNN wants to turn things around. Morgan is a household name in Britain, but he has never headlined his own show here in the states. Going with an unproven talent at such a pivotal moment for the network would be a bold move — if CNN can pull it off.