Why Didn’t Anyone Watch Piers Morgan’s Show on CNN?

You might know Piers Morgan as the British celebrity famous for saying obnoxious things about people you probably like. Last week, he said Meghan Markle turned Prince Harry into “a squeaky-clean, teetotal, kale munching fitness freak.”

Right around the same time — likely because he stopped trending — the tabloid personality took swipes at Gordon Ramsay for cooking vegan food. If you’re following along, it’s mostly because Morgan considers himself “a man’s man,” circa 1957.

Unfortunately for Morgan, who was questioned by police on multiple occasions about Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal while he worked at the Mirror, few people point to him as a masculine ideal.

Generally, the best way to handle Morgan is to do as Ramsay did the other day: Say, “Go fu*k yourself,” then go about your day. However, humiliating Morgan doesn’t always make him disappear.

Take his canceled show on CNN, Piers Morgan Tonight. It took American audiences several years to get rid of him. In what should be a lesson to celebrities, people had to ignore him completely to ensure his CNN show ended.

Piers couldn’t match the audience of a 77-year-old Larry King.

Broadcaster Piers Morgan plays a shot during the BMW PGA Championship Pro Am tournament on May 23, 2018 in Virginia Water, England. | Warren Little/Getty Images

When Piers Morgan took over Larry King’s 9 p.m. slot in 2011, CNN was looking to inject some youthful controversy into the space. However, it turned out that King, then 77, commanded a bigger audience than Piers ever could.

In 2011, Morgan’s ratings were worse than King’s had been, but only by about 15%. But it turned out those would be the glory days for the British tabloid sensation. By June 2013, Morgan was attracting 121,000 viewers below the age of 55.

Even in the pre-Trump era, that performance basically guaranteed Piers Morgan Tonight wouldn’t stick around at 9 o’clock. Nearing the three-year mark of the experiment, CNN President Jeff Zucker pulled the plug on the show in early 2014.

Then as now, Morgan gave viewers few reasons to like him.

For those who find themselves disgusted by Morgan on an on-again, off-again basis these days, we will just say: Imagine if you saw him on prime time every night. Obviously, the concept remains unsustainable.

When the show launched, Time’s James Poniewozik described the concept as a hope Morgan would become “the Simon Cowell of TV journalism.” The problem was, Cowell was likable, and his show was enjoyed by wide audiences. No one accused Piers Morgan of either of those things.

The way he approached news subjects (always looking for scandal) clearly didn’t work on a news network — even one with little integrity these days. In Morgan’s mind, his British-ness and opinions on gun-control alienated more American viewers than he could afford to lose.

However, as Poniewozik pointed out, Morgan’s ratings stunk long he began sticking up for gun reforms. Besides, support for common-sense gun laws remains high in America. It wasn’t a fatal position. (Anderson Cooper, who always got better ratings on CNN, might be to the left of Morgan on guns.)

Whatever the precise measure of each factor was, the result was a pitifully small audience. To put things in perspective, Rachel Maddow commands about five times the number (3 million viewers) nightly in 2019.

That’s the sort of ratio people typically only find on Morgan’s Twitter account.

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