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Piers Morgan’s Primetime Departure All Part of Zucker Plan At CNN

Looks like CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker wasn’t kidding earlier this year when he pronounced 2014 to be the year of a shake-up in the Time Warner-owned cable-news network’s ailing primetime lineup.

In an interview with The New York Times, Piers Morgan, who had anchored the network’s 9 p.m. slot since January, 2011, said his program was slated to end in the not-too-distant future, noting to columnist David Carr that ““It’s been a painful period and lately we have taken a bath in the ratings.” In a statement, CNN confirmed that the show was slated to end, but that a final date had not been determined.

The move has been expected. Talk has been rife in recent weeks that CNN was prepared to push both Piers Morgan and Erin Burnett into new roles if their ratings did not noticeably improve. In 2013.“Piers Morgan Live” basically stayed flat with 2012 performance, securing 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.

More recently, CNN ended a second hour from Anderson Cooper, “AC360 Later,” that had been airing weekdays at 10 p.m.  – when it wasn’t being preempted by documentaries.

SEE ALSO: Ratings: Is CNN’s Piers Morgan Shooting Himself in the Foot?

CNN has notched some gains since Zucker, the former CEO of NBCUniversal, came on board in early 2013. Breaking-news events have given its daytime schedule a ratings boost. Indeed, CNN finished 2013 ahead of MSNBC in total day viewership. But viewership for its primetime schedule has slipped to some of its lowest ratings in two decades.

According to Nielsen, CNN’s primetime lineup in the fourth quarter of 2013 showed a significant dip in the ratings, and the gap between its viewership and that of MSNBC and Fox News Channel widened. CNN’s primetime shows captured an average of 477,000 viewers overall in the fourth quarter, compared with an average of about 1.78 million for Fox News Channel and an average of 653,000 for MSNBC. Both of those networks saw ratings rise from the third quarter, while CNN’s quarterly primetime average has fallen since the second quarter of 2013, when the network captured an average of 653,000 viewers.

Zucker has made no secret about his desire to solve the network’s primetime issue. Now that he’s pulled programs from both 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., he has a lot more room to maneuver. Among the ideas that have been swirling at the network are a possible half-hour program, potentially featuring Bill Weir, former co-anchor of ABC’s “Nightline.”

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