Piers Morgan is making good on his promise to Deadline that he was “about to” lock down his new CNN show’s Executive Producer. I’ve confirmed that hard news veteran Jonathan Wald, the former CNBC topper who left last year after taking the business channel to new ratings highs, is in negotiations with Morgan and the new CNN head Ken Jautz to lead the news channel’s replacement show for Larry King Live. (Broadcasting & Cable reported this first today.) Trust me, he won’t come cheap. But it’s hard for me to imagine that, given all his experience, Wald would be content running just one show when he’s been in charge of entire programming schedules. I can’t help but wonder if this is a way in for Wald at CNN which certainly could use his proven ability to get cable news ratings and keep them.
UPDATE 3PM: I’ve learned more about how CNN’s deal with Piers Morgan transpired. Despite the fact that speculation about Morgan replacing Larry King had been dragging on all summer, it actually took about two weeks to negotiate his deal, two weeks from the moment CNN made the offer to the moment it was done.
But of course there was a lot of groundwork to be laid out before CNN was allowed to make an offer, primarily concerning Morgan’s obligation to NBC’s America’s Got Talent where he serves as a judge. I hear for NBC the main issues were scheduling, as Morgan will have to juggle filming for both shows, as well as competition, as Morgan’s CNN show will air at 9 PM, going against NBC’s primetime, and on occasion during the summer he will go against himself on Talent. With some understanding from NBC brass and the Talent producers, Simon Cowell and FremantleMedia, as well as a new 3-year deal Morgan inked with NBC to continue as a judge on the reality series, that hurdle was overcome. And despite some speculation, the pact doesn’t involve Morgan doing additional duties for NBC. And as if getting two congloms, NBC Universal and CNN parent Time Warner, to work together on the deal was not enough, there was another factor that put negotiations on hold for awhile, Morgan’s late June wedding.
Morgan’s Talent boss and longtime friend Simon Cowell, of course, helped him get the blessing of the show’s producers to go to CNN. But I hear Cowell’s impact might have been much bigger; he was the reason Morgan pursued the gig in the first place. Morgan has interviewed Cowell, including on his British talk show Life Stories early this year. I hear Cowell told Morgan at the end of last year: “You are a good judge but you’re a much better interviewer.”