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11.10.11

CBS Snares Charlie Rose, Gayle King for 'The Early Show'

They are joining 'The Early Show' as the network tries once again to overhaul the last-place program. Howard Kurtz on the challenge they face.

Charlie Rose and Gayle King have agreed to host CBS’s Early Show as part of a sweeping overhaul for the perennially third-place program, say sources familiar with the deal.

Rose, the veteran late-night host on PBS, and King, the Oprah Winfrey pal who has a talk show on the talk queen’s cable network, are on the verge of signing the contracts. They will start in early January.

They are an unorthodox pairing, to say the least. Rose, who already has a CBS connection as a part-time correspondent for 60 Minutes, is known for long, discursive conversations with newsmakers, journalists and intellectuals. He told Newsweek recently that he began the talks with CBS because “I’m intrigued by the fact that they want to do it differently. They understand that their success will not lie in duplicating what’s already on morning television.”

King, an at-large editor for O magazine whose public identity is largely defined by her Oprah connection, has trafficked mainly in cultural topics.

"I don't see myself standing in [Winfrey's] shadows, ever," she recently told Nightline. "I really do see myself standing in her light."

They were courted by CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager to become part of a newsier, less traditional morning program that would try to forge a new identity rather than copy NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America. CBS has been struggling to find a winning combination in the morning for three decades, acquiring and shedding various hosts and formats. Today, now hosted by Matt Lauer and Ann Curry, has held the No. 1 spot for 13 years, and GMA, with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, has lately become more competitive in chasing its rival.

Erica Hill, one of the current Early Show cohosts, is expected to remain, along with news anchor Jeff Glor. Cohost Chris Wragge will be leaving the program.

CBS Vice President of Programming Chris Licht, the former producer of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, has been trying to reshape the broadcast to focus more on hard news and less on sensational subjects. The network is building a multimillion-dollar studio for the revamped program.