Venerable CNN talk show host Larry King dropped a bombshell on his audience Tuesday night, announcing that he will end his nightly prime-time show this fall after more than 25 years on the air.
“It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders,” said King, 76, who said he made the decision in order to have more time to spend with his family. He said he was not forced out by CNN management, which has agreed to let him remain with the network to host periodic specials.
No decision has been made on plans for King’s 9 p.m. ET slot, CNN said in a statement.
Once upon a time, when King’s show was the most powerful ratings juggernaut in cable news, his empty slot would have been highly coveted. However, his numbers have been dropping steadily in recent years, to the point where he now regularly finishes in third place behind Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Still, King ‘s departure will no doubt be a significant blow to CNN. He is the network’s most iconic personality, as inseparable from the network’s brand as its logo, and “Larry King Live” is still the linchpin of its struggling prime-time lineup, which has been beaten by both Fox and MSNBC this year.
Thanks to his legendary status and genial, low-key style of questioning , King can still snag an A-list roster of guests despite his weak ratings. However, his attempts to make his show relevant to younger viewers -- such as recent interviews with Lady Gaga and rapper T.I. – led to some very awkward television that actually made him seem frozen in time.
In April, King and his seventh wife, Shawn, announced they were divorcing, setting off a tabloid firestorm. However, the Kings, who have two pre-teen sons, later put the divorce proceedings on hold.
King told his viewers Tuesday night that ending the show would leave “more time for my wife and I to get to the kids’ little league games."