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Posted at 06:40 PM ET, 12/15/2011

Howard Stern joins ‘America’s Got Talent’ as a judge

Shock jock Howard Stern is the new Piers Morgan on NBC’s competition series “America’s Got Talent,” as the network struggles to climb out of the fourth-place ratings hole in which it has been mired for years.

NBC stepped on its own Golden Globe Awards nominations announcement Thursday morning when it announced literally minutes later that it had closed a deal for Stern to serve as the new judge on the top-rated summer alternative series — one of few bright spots on NBC’s primetime landscape.

Production of the talent show, which has already begun auditioning talent for its seventh season, is moving to New York, so Stern can continue to do his Sirius XM radio program. Don’t expect “Talent” to remain a summer show for long after making this kind of investment. When word of talks with Stern erupted this fall, his pricetag was said to be around $15 million — and that does not include the cost of moving production.

(Update: Watch a clip from Morgan’s Thursday night CNN show, as he discusses the news with Stern):

And, yes, the network that’s afraid of the word “vodka” (NBC has renamed its upcoming sitcom adaptation of Chelsea Handler’s book, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea,” which will instead be called “Are You There, Chelsea?”) has hired the lightning rod of naughty language and programming content.

“I’m going to Piers on steroids...a no-nonsense judge,” Stern said Thursday morning on his satellite radio show. “It’s going to be something else...I am very excited.”

The new deal marks Stern’s return to the company that famously sacked him more than two decades ago over his raunchy WNBC radio show antics — which Stern gleefully noted on air Thursday morning.

Stern’s show also tweeted that he “didn’t do it for the $$$.” Stern was looking for a new career path and, having failed to close a deal to judge aspiring singers on Fox’s “American Idol,” he will now judge contortionists, jugglers, clowns, sword swallowers, ventriloquists — and singers, on “Talent” which is brought to you by, among others, Simon Cowell.

“Howard Stern’s larger-than-life personality will bring a thrilling new dynamic to ‘America’s Got Talent’ starting this summer,” NBC’s reality-TV guru, Paul Telegdy gushed in Thursday’s announcement.

The gig might seem an odd aspiration for a shock jock, but the former self-proclaimed King of all Media’s kingdom got a lot smaller when he migrated from syndication to satellite radio, and Stern actually stands to gain a lot in recovered visibility in being seen twice weekly on a broad-appeal vehicle.

“Talent” is NBC’s most watched series, and the most watched show of the summer on any network, clocking 14.3 million viewers on Tuesday nights last summer and 13.3 million on Wednesdays – both series highs for the six-season-old show.

At the time he was pursuing his dream of replacing Simon Cowell on “Idol,” Stern said in interviews that he wasn’t sure if what the judges do on “Idol” is ‘work,’ and that there’s no cushier job on the planet that judging “a [expletive] karaoke contest.” He also said “Idol” was “in trouble,” because the judges were afraid to deliver actual opinions about the performances and “they probably do need me.” At that time, “Idol” was averaging about 25 million viewers on performance nights.

Also at the time, Cowell — who had announced he was leaving “Idol” in order to launch Fox’s other singing series “X Factor” — said Stern was unqualified to replace him. And, as we said, Cowell is the creator and exec producer of “America’s Got Talent.”

Anyway, Fox instead went instead with the sweet-talking Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler — ouch! Oh, and the audience for the show grew larger.

Stern will fill the Acerbic Truth-Teller slot being vacated by Piers Morgan, now of CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live,” who, last month, gave himself the exclusive that he was leaving the goofy summer competition show he’d helmed since its premiere in order to focus on covering the political election for the ratings lean cable news network. There’s at least one gag in there, somewhere. Stern would be joining Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel – the other two judges on the show NBC suits like to call “good family programming.”

Here’s more Stern show busy tweeting the news Thursday morning:

“It’s offical - Howard just signed on the dotted line - he is now the newest judge on America’s Got Talent! “

“Howard says he’s really excited the America’s Got Talent job. Robin is also happy for him, but they both think Fred is jealous”

Howard says he’ll start shooting in Feburary and actually be traveling the country to do the audition rounds. #H100 #AGT

“No goofy acts will get through - Howard’s promise to the America’s Got Talent audience - “

By  |  06:40 PM ET, 12/15/2011

 
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