Disney-ABC and Katie Couric made it official today, announcing that Couric’s syndicated daytime talk show will not go beyond the original two-year. “While production will continue on Katie through June 2014, we’ve mutually agreed that there will not be a third season of the show,” the two parties said in a joint statement. “We’re very proud of everyone’s contributions to making Katie the #1 new syndicated talk show of 2012-2013, and we look forward to the rest of the season.” Couric is expected to give the news to the show’s staff after today’s taping, the last before the scheduled holiday break until January.
The show’s cancellation was widely expected. Launching with a lot of promise — headlined by Couric and her former Today executive producer Jeff Zucker — Katie had a rocky freshman season. After a strong opening, it slipped in the ratings. Its numbers eventually leveled off and Katie remained No. 1 in households among all freshmen for the entire season, but was running neck and neck with fellow rookie Steve Harvey, which edged Katie in the key women 25-54 demographic for the second part of the season. There has been more of the same this fall. Katie never broke through to join the upper echelon of talkers like Dr. Phil and Ellen but never tanked either. However, while ratings have been decent overall, the show didn’t do enough for its core ABC station group, posting time period declines and hurting the stations’ newscast that follow it. And Katie‘s biggest problem was its big price tag, said to be $30 million-$40 million a year.
Katie also has been struggling with its identity, with Couric, who also serves as exec producer, reportedly pushing for newsmaking interviews and more serious journalistic approach normally reserved for in-depth news programs like 60 Minutes as opposed to daytime TV’s conventional emphasis on lighter fare and celebrities. (Katie drew its largest audience with the Manti Te’o interview, which averaged almost 3.8 million viewers in January.) The search for direction was acerbated by the departure of Zucker, who had been a strong authoritative figure early on. There have been a slew of behind-the-scenes changes during Katie’s first year on the air: Zucker and co-exec producer Michael Bass left for CNN, with Michael Morrison and Ethan Nelson joining in January as executive producer and co-exec producer, respectively. Both were gone by the end of the season, along with co-executive producer Kathy Samuels and director Joseph Terry, with Rachel Miskowiec taking the reins for Season 2.
Disney-ABC has no replacement for Katie, which took over the General Hospital 3 PM time slot on the ABC stations. The company is working on that, having recently hired seasoned syndication executive Lisa Hackner to shepherd first-run development, but it is unclear if they can mount a new production so fast. There had been speculation that ABC and Couric could try to extend the show for one more season while a suitable replacement is found, but Couric seemed ready to move on, while it appeared hard for ABC to make the show economically feasible because of its prohibitive cost, even with a budget reduction. Katie’s core station group, the ABC stations, are reportedly already exploring local newscasts to replace the talk show next fall, with acquired programming also an option.
Starting in January, Couric will do Katie along with her duties under her recently announced deal with Yahoo. After Katie ends in May, she will focus on Yahoo while looking for opportunities in TV. She also produces with Laurie David documentary Fed Up, about the obesity crisis, which is in competition at Sundance.