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Piers Morgan goes live : Is it really a last-gasp bid to boost the ratings?

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 9, 2013 | 3 min read

Tomorrow night Piers Morgan's show on CNN goes live and is renamed "Piers Morgan Live," . And that's how it will be, Monday through Thursday. You'll never know what's going to happen!

The show's new logo

Morgan says he always wanted to do the show live, like Larry King before him. But insiders are speculating that the real reason is to pull the show out of a ratings dive.

"When I began, I was under contract to ‘America’s Got Talent’ and couldn’t work out the schedules," Piers explained. "Now that I’m not one of those talent judges anymore, I have the time."

“So, with Jeff Zucker coming in, taking over, bringing up new ideas, I went to him and thought it’s a good idea to revamp,” he said.

Morgan has been very vocal - and visible - with his loud campaign against guns after the recent school massacre. A petition to the White house to deport him was rejected by Obama. But Piers's high profile hasn't always been reflected in the ratings.

On February 28 the show was reported to have sunk to a yearly (2013) low in the prime 25-54 demographic with just 87,000 viewers. The show is down 27% in total viewers, according to Nielsen, and down 38% in the demo from its debut on January 17, 2011.

Last Monday the 25-54 figure was 147,000.

Initially in January 2011 Piers, with Oprah as his guest, tripled King's viewing figures . On his first show 2.1 million U.S. viewers tuned in, but by the second show the ratings dropped to 1.3 million.

By October 2011, Piers Morgan Tonight had an average total audience of 589,000 each night, down from Larry King Live's average of 657,000 in the same month a year before. In November 2011, the program had an average of just 154,000 viewers ages 25 to 54.

In contrast, Larry King Live had an average of 161,000 in November 2010.

In June 2012, it was reported that Piers Morgan Tonight had the lowest ratings for a CNN primetime slot in 21 years.

in January this year Mediabistro reported, "Compared to last year, Morgan’s programme is down -19% in Total Viewers and -22% in the [age 25-54] demographic".

Commenting on that February 28, low point, Mediabistro said the show was down 27% in total viewers and 38% in the demo from its January 17, 2011 debut.

Until now the show has aired some episodes live and taped others. The change is the latest shift at CNN, which is undergoing a major programming overhaul under Zucker.

Tomorrow night therefore Piers will be counting that the thrill of going live (guest not yet known) will boost these figures.

CNN stood by him as the News of the World phone tapping controversy roared on in London last year. They are less likely to be as supportive if the show continues to slide.

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