Despite a fast-spreading, false rumor that CNN had suspended Piers Morgan today, Mr. Morgan's talk show actually looks safe so far, as attempts to tie him to News Corp.'s phone-hacking scandal are failing to register with marketers.
Media buying executives at various agencies say clients haven't signaled in any way that Mr. Morgan's "Piers Morgan Tonight" on CNN could become a hot spot. "It has not come up," said one of the executives.
Nor do ad buyers seem to be following this thread very closely. A second executive had to be updated on how Mr. Morgan was possibly linked to the media-industry drama, in which senior executives at News Corp.'s News International unit have been arrested or resigned in connection with alleged links to phone hacking at U.K. newspaper the News of the World.
Mr. Morgan served as editor at News of the World between 1994 and 1995 and editor at the Daily Mirror, a British paper not owned by News Corp., from 1995 to 2004. But he has dismissed rumors that he knowingly published news gleaned by hacking into subjects' voicemail. "For the record, I do not believe that any story we published in either title was ever gained in a unlawful manner, nor have I ever seen anything to suggest that ," he said on CNN during a recent appearance.
But rumors continue. Various outlets argued yesterday that Mr. Morgan's comments to the BBC in 2009 showed that he knew about "dodgy" journalistic practices at the papers he edited. Mr. Morgan countered that he meant his comments two years ago as general observations. "As I have said before," he added in a statement, "I have never hacked a phone, told anyone to hack a phone, nor to my knowledge published any story obtained from the hacking of a phone."
Executives at CNN have heard no pushback or concerns from advertisers so far, according to a person familiar with the situation. A spokeswoman declined to make a CNN executive available for comment.
Mr. Morgan's show, which has done little to help CNN's ailing prime-time lineup since debuting Jan. 17, accounted for $11.4 million of CNN's $108.6 million in first-quarter ad revenue, according to estimates from Kantar Media.