Larry King Signs $5 Million Podcast Deal for Celebrity Interview Show (EXCLUSIVE)Variety — Todd Spangler
Larry King is gearing up to launch his first-ever podcast. Because why the hell not?
King, 86, whose career has spanned more than six decades in radio and TV, is set to host “The Millionth Question,” an entertainment and celebrity interview podcast. Targeted for a mid-June debut, the hour-long podcast will feature guests across pop culture, sports, music and comedy. The podcast’s title is a nod to King’s lengthy track record as an interviewer: The ex-CNN host estimates he’s conducted more than 60,000 interviews.
“The chance to take [the podcast interview show] beyond the world of politics is intriguing to me,” King told Variety. He said he had a stroke last year, “but I’m OK now – as long as I’m alert and inquisitive, why not?”
King is teaming up to launch the podcast with Chance King (Larry’s 21-year-old son with his seventh wife, Shawn Southwick) and former variety-theater impresario Jeff Beacher under the duo’s newly formed 4Forty4 Media banner. “I jumped at the chance when Jeff and Chance approached me,” Larry King said.
King is guaranteed $5 million under a multiyear contract with 4Forty4, according to Beacher, who declined to go into specifics of how the deal is structured. Produced by Beacher and Chance King, “The Millionth Question” is slated for an initial 11-episode run.
One of the first guests on “Millionth Question” will be Mariah Carey (a pal of Beacher’s), according to King; however, a rep for Carey said she is not confirmed to participate. “We’ll go after celebrities of all kinds, including in this pandemic,” said King, mentioning his “old friend” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s become a household name during the COVID-19 crisis.
King’s wish list of interview subjects includes NBA legend Michael Jordan (au courant because of ESPN’s hit docuseries “The Last Dance”) — and Donald Trump, whom King says he’s interviewed hundreds of times. However, according to King, he would want to chat with Trump “as a celebrity interview, not as a political interview.”
It’s impossible, of course, to imagine any Q&A with Trump successfully avoiding politics. But King said his political interviews are reserved for “PoliticKING,” his twice-weekly show produced by Ora TV since 2013 and distributed via Hulu — and RT America, the Russia state-funded television network. While King insists RT has never interfered with “PoliticKING,” the interviewer has faced criticism for his financial ties to the Russian government and questions about his agenda (such as when Trump appeared on King’s show ahead of the 2016 election to dismiss the U.S. intelligence community’s appraisal that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails).
King’s name has been in the headlines recently for an entirely different reason: In a 1993 episode of CNN’s “Larry King Live,” the mother of Tara Reade — who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, an allegation he has denied — called into the show to ask advice on whether her daughter should go public with her “problems” after working for a “prominent senator.” King said he has “absolutely no memory of it at all,” noting that he hosted thousands of shows while at CNN.
According to Larry King, his new foray into podcasting isn’t about the money. “I love interviewing. I’ve done it all my life… I love asking questions,” he said. While lockdown rules are still in effect, King will be recording the podcasts out of his L.A. home, where he hosts “PoliticKING” and general-interest talker “Larry King Now.”
Beacher, who currently is running 4Forty4 from his Beverly Hills home, hooked up with Larry King through Chance. Beacher said, “He’s a legend, he’s an icon – and he just didn’t have a podcast. We can create a full distribution center for him, to reach even more people than he’s ever reached on CNN or Hulu.”
Beacher is best known for Beacher’s Madhouse, a vaudeville-style live theater attraction that set up residence in Las Vegas for many years and later opened in L.A. More recently, he worked as an “entertainment relationship coordinator” for Lyft and Airbnb to land celebrity endorsements. He continues to provide celeb-related consulting services with governments to promote tourism, including in the Dominican Republic and Kenya: “I can’t wait for the travel ban to lift,” said Beacher.
Other 4Forty4 Media podcasts in the works include “Thick Skin” with stand-up comedian Jeff Ross and “Weight Loss Journey” hosted by Beacher, who says he once weighed more than 400 pounds and is now near his target weight of 175. “I lived in hotel rooms for 20 years of my life,” Beacher said.
Beacher’s goal is to have podcasts programmed seven days a week, focused on themes like sports, health, music, lifestyle and politics. He says he’s in talks with podcast distributors and advertising companies for the shows.
Like King, Beacher claims the venture is “not about money — it’s about getting the biggest distribution and getting the most ears listening to it. If that means putting it on Apple Podcasts and every single platform, we’ll do that.” He said 4Forty4 does not have any outside investors and is operating with a “lean” operating budget.
In the last two years, podcasting hit a growth curve in listenership after over a decade on a slow boil. This week, Joe Rogan — the controversial host and comedian whose podcast consistently ranks as one of the most popular in the industry — announced that he will be bringing “The Joe Rogan Experience” exclusively to Spotify under a multiyear deal reported to be worth over $100 million.