Katie Couric: Falling Out of Favor at ABC News, Syndie Talker

Katie Couric ABC News Talk Show

Key ABC O&Os said to be planning local newscasts to replace daytime show next fall

The syndication biz wrote off Katie Couric’s Disney-distributed daytime talkshow strip even before it finished its first season this past spring.

Now the one-time morning show superstar is also heading for the exit at ABC News, negotiating an early end to the “special correspondent” deal that accompanied her talkshow pact in 2011. Couric is poised to shift to a programming deal with Yahoo, which will keep her visible in media circles but nonetheless marks a remarkable fall from grace for the anchor who was once at the top of the TV journo pack. She joined the Disney-ABC fold in mid-2011 after a tumultuous tenure as the anchor of the “CBS Evening News.”

The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news of Couric’s negotiations with Yahoo on Friday. ABC News insiders tried to put the best face on the transition, but it is no secret that Couric had a tough time finding room in an operation that has limited airtime and two formidable femme stars in Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters.

Meanwhile, on her Monday-Friday topical talker, weak ratings, a revolving door of producers, reports of testy behavior on the set and a general unwillingness to embrace daytime TV conventions (even for high-brow “Oprah”-esque talkers) led station managers to conclude that Couric wasn’t a fit with the job.

There’s been speculation in recent weeks that Couric might not complete her second season of the talker now that it’s become clear her station affiliates, including the core ABC O&O group, are hunting for replacement shows starting in fall 2014. Disney reps, however, have tamped down that speculation. If nothing else, Couric’s hefty eight-figure paycheck is incentive for her to complete the two-year term of her daytime show contract.

The coin Couric commands has been a sore spot for station managers given the perception that she was balking at making her show less newsy and more daytime-friendly. The ABC O&Os in top markets such as Gotham, L.A. and Chicago in particular took a ratings hit by putting the show on in optimum late afternoon news lead-in time periods, meaning that “Katie’s” low-ratings also handicapped the newscasts.

Disney-ABC brass had high hopes that Couric could fill the void of Oprah Winfrey’s retirement from daytime syndie talk. Winfrey’s powerhouse talker helped keep the ABC O&O stations mighty in daytime and early fringe for more than two decades.

Winfrey’s retirement, followed a year later by Couric’s arrival, coincided with ABC’s strategic decision to cancel the network’s long-running soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.” ABC O&O and affiliate stations in many markets have been walloped by the disruptions, which also undoubtedly fueled the anti-Couric sentiment.

At present, industry sources say ABC’s major-market O&Os are likely to replace Couric with additional local newscasts. That’s a cost-effective move, as the infrastructure is already in place, and also a pragmatic one in that there’s little else on the syndie horizon that would be a fit for the group.

Disney-ABC’s two-year commitment to Couric prevented the ABC O&Os from making a play earlier this year for Ellen DeGeneres daytime yakker when rights to the Warner Bros.-distribbed show came on the auction block — another source of frustration for the O&O group. Had the ABC-owned stations bid for “Ellen,” all of the other “Katie” affiliates would have balked at keeping the show in top time periods.

Reps for ABC News declined comment; Yahoo could not immediately be reached for comment.

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  1. With the population of the United States and the abundance of people to chose from, surely there are better interviewers/hosts to entertain us? Katie is essentially boring and rested on her journalistic laurels with this Daytime Slot. I am tired of Katie fawning over the guests and there is something that is just a bit phoney about her which is why I stopped watching.

    Now, the surprise in the pack is Queen Latifah who is completely natural and believable and she does not get ‘buddy buddy’ with the celebrity guests and kiss their sweet behinds which is the mistake that Katie made and it makes the audience cringe when hosts do that sort of thing.

    If networks would seek out more ‘real’ hosts like Queen Latifah who connect with the audience and are not interested in kissing the asses of the celebrities then they will do alright with us the audience.

  2. Stephanie says:

    PLEASE bring back ONE LIFE TO LIVE & ALL MY CHILDREN! I prefer for a drama to be a full hour, but both AMC & OLTL deserve to be on the air, and I doubt The Chew is leaving (even though I don’t watch), so make OLTL & AMC half hour soaps and put them in KATIE’s timeslot, PLEASE ABC!!! I’ll actually watch ABC’s primetime lineup too, if that happens! GH has been excellent, but I still miss my Llanview and Pine Valley friends! Prospect Park didn’t do them justice, at all!

  3. Interesting. Couric’s numbers are three times higher than Trashy God Awful’s crap(Trish Goddard) and Trish was a solid renewal for a second season? LOL

  4. christina says:

    and the soaps ratings on each network goes up, up, up and the shows being turned out on the networks are all serial based. Are we having a blond moment here ABC? BRING BACK OUR SOAPS!!!!

  5. Lucy says:

    When will ABC ever learn? We don’t want talk, we don’t want food, WE WANT OUR SOAPS! Go on and bite the bullet, admit you were wrong, and bring back “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”. We won’t hold a grudge; we will even start watching other ABC shows again if you do the right thing and return our soaps to us. Hasn’t the dismal failure of all the replacement shows taught you anything?

  6. occultology says:

    Katie Couric is the perfect symbiosis between artificiality and insincerity, attached to an empty smile.

  7. Liz says:

    ABC and it’s affiliates can put any talker or news show on in Katie’s time slot but the rating will always be dismal until they give us our soaps back. I would love to come home to ABC but refuse to watch anything on the alphabet network unless they bring back One Life to Live and All My Children. The ONLY show I still watch on ABC is General Hospital. If they want ratings, bring back our shows!

  8. Mary Moore Fergen says:

    Come on, ABC/D! Will you finally admit your costly mistakes, and bring back All My Children and One Life to Live? Nothing in your daytime lineup will succeed until you do! Wake up and smell the soap bubbles!

  9. me says:

    It’s pretty sad that people are STILL begging for soaps to return, even after all this time. You wouldn’t want a doctor to continue to try and revive your grandmother after she had coded 5 times. Give it up already.

    • stand4soaps says:

      Well, let me put it this way: how many times have canceled shows returned from the dead? So it’s certainly not impossible. Second, there has never been such a clear and loud fan response in the history of television regarding the wrongful cancellations of shows, like there was for AMC & OLTL. And with all soap ratings up, one never knows. So, speaking up is worth it.

      • John says:

        1. Not many.

        2. Family Guy…their fans actually got them back, unlike the rest of you.

        3. Ratings are only up because there are fewer soaps.

    • John says:

      THANK YOU! Somebody who gets it. People really need to move on. I understand that they probably shouldn’t have been dropped in the first place, but what’s done is done. Despite being a male 20-something, confident in his masculinity, I have very fond memories of watching these two shows with my mom, but anyone will agree that even if they came back, it just wouldn’t be the same.

  10. d.w. mckim says:

    At the end of the day, the reason Katie tanked is because a large segment of the audience that might have watched her show under normal circumstances made it a point NOT to watch because she was a soap replacement. Any other show that takes her place will also face the same fate. People didn’t watch because it was “Katie Couric” but because it was NOT One Life to Live or All My Children. ABC desperately needs to face up to its multimillion dollar mistake and bring the soaps back as soon as possible.

  11. v says:

    bring back our soaps , ratings will be highbring back our soaps , ratings will be high

    • Tim says:

      Daytime soaps are dead. Quit beating the proverbial dead horse. They are too expensive to produce. If you crave soaps, DVR the decent nighttime ones and watch them during the day. Or seek therapy. Your choice.

      • Yolanda Arenas says:

        Daytime soaps are not dead by a long shot. We, the true fans, support all the soaps that are left but we want our old soaps, OLTL & AMC, back. They were prematurely cancelled by an executive whose sole purpose was to see their demise. He was Brian Frons who was also known as “The Soap Killer.” Those shows should never have died. The fans will never stop working to being them back!

      • v says:

        really ? have you seen the ratings for general hospital ? and boring talk shows are popular ? 2 went off…it cost alot more wasted money on katie . night time soaps will NEVER EVER be as good !!!! get your facts straight IDIOT!!!!!

      • d.w. says:

        Katie cost MORE than All My Children and One Life to Live combined.

  12. steve says:

    This is not news. Katie Couric is not a correspondent, or a reporter, or an interviewer. She is cute and cuddly and has a nice smile. Im sure she can find work on HSN or Lifetime.

  13. charcramer says:

    Bring back One Life to Live. Or, One Life to Live and All My Children as half-hour lead-ins to General Hospital. ABC would get millions of viewers back. Talk shows are over.

  14. igor Highpriest says:

    Really? Who’d a thunk it? She’s now poisoned all 3 major networks – and she’s not done.

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