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The Morning Fix: Seacrest for Lauer? Really? RIP Harry Morgan

December 8, 2011 |  7:26 am

After the coffee. Before figuring out when I went from young turk to grumpy old man.

The Skinny: I thought life got easier when you got older. Turns out it just gets faster. Thursday's headlines include a look at the rising programming costs at cable networks; NBC considers Ryan Seacrest as a possible replacement for Matt Lauer; and an appreciation of actor Harry Morgan, who is Col. Potter to many but will always be Bill Gannon to me.

Ryan Seacrest to replace Matt Lauer?Pitching season. Got an idea for a TV show to woo young men? Well then rush right over to the Sunset Marquis hotel where cable channel Spike TV is in the second day of a two-day pitch fest for producers. The event is similar to those held by A&E TV (parent of A&E, History and Lifetime) and AMC. Rent out a swanky space and have producers come with ideas. Spike's event wraps up Thursday night with a big bash at Hollywood hot spot My Studio. Doug Herzog, who oversees the Viacom-owned network, is hosting. Tell them I sent you.

If you want to play, you have to pay. Over the last five years, programming costs for many of the top cable networks have soared. While sports is the major culprit, it isn't the only one. History, which went from a network filled with documentaries to a reality channel with shows such as "Pawn Stars" and "Ice Road Truckers," has seen its programming costs jump 50%. At the same time, though, cable networks continue to have healthy profits because of increased subscriber fees. The Los Angeles Times looks at whether the cable industry is near a tipping point.

Seacrest in? With "Today" anchor Matt Lauer's contract expiring next year, NBC has to figure out what it will do should he not sign a new deal. One idea being discussed is Ryan Seacrest, the radio personality and host of Fox's "American Idol." Seacrest's name first surfaced over the summer in a report from Mediaite. Now The Wall Street Journal says talks are heating up. Journalism purists will no doubt feel a pain in their stomach over the idea of Seacrest hosting what is technically a morning news program. After all, while the morning shows are a lot of fluff these days, the anchor still has to have the gravitas to be able to turn to the camera at a moment's notice and say, "America is under attack." So far the only thing Seacrest can say with conviction is "Seacrest out."

The free ride is ending. Media mogul Barry Diller tells Success Magazine that free content online is “an accident of historical moment” and that we're moving closer to a world of pay walls. From his lips to every media company's ears. Old habits may be hard to break, but the bulk of Americans now pay for television and carry bottles of water around in their bags. Bet no one thought they'd be doing that 30 years ago.

Eying the exit? Relativity Media President and Chief Financial Officer Steve Bertram is thinking about leaving, according to The Wrap, which said that his exit "would be a significant blow to the independent studio." It would also mean no more free rides in Relativity head Ryan Kavanaugh's helicopter.

Holdout. Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable operator, is still at odds with HBO over HBO Go, the pay cable network's iPad application. For weeks, there have been stories that the two are near a deal that would allow Time Warner Cable subscribers (like me) to be able to access HBO content via their iPad. But haggling continues as Time Warner Cable is very nervous that one day HBO will pull the rug out from under it and sell HBO Go to people who don't subscribe to cable too. The New York Post with the latest. Hey Time Warner Cable subscribers, what do you think we'll get first, HBO Go or the NFL Network?

Put me in coach. Manager and producer Gavin Polone has advice for struggling NBC. Find a niche and stick to it. His column in Vulture.

Help me help you. Oprah Winfrey made a return to daytime television Wednesday, popping up on "Dr. Oz" to remind viewers she's still around, just on a smaller channel. "Can y'all please find it on your channels?" she pleaded. More from The Huffington Post.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Hollywood big shots went to Washington to lobby for a new anti-piracy bill. Harry Morgan, best known for his work on "M*A*S*H" and "Dragnet," died at 96.

-- Joe Flint

Follow me on Twitter. I'm no flash in the pan.

Photo: "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX / Reuters