By interesting serendipity, the news about the final Oprah show and the new round of speculation that Katie Couric will most likely leave the CBS Evening News anchor chair in June came in within minutes of each other today. The coincidence is intriguing as Couric is touted as a potential successor to Oprah Winfrey as she is preparing for her next career as a daytime talk-show host.
Couric, of course, won’t be a direct replacement for Oprah, and not only because a whole year will separate Oprah’s exit from daytime and Couric’s expected arrival in fall 2012. Interestingly enough, Dr. Oz can claim that title. Of the 155 markets in which Oprah is not being replaced by a newscast, more than 80, including two of the Top 5, went with Dr. Oz in the Oprah slot, more than all other talk shows combined. As for ratings supremacy, Judge Judy, already beating Oprah on a regular basis, is expected to become the undisputed new daytime queen, with Dr. Phil and Ellen also poised to get a boost.
But Couric is the biggest name to hit daytime syndication since Jane Pauley in 2004, and the media frenzy over the move is understandable. From a station group perspective, the NBC O&Os have the most openings and seem the most eager to go after a Couric-hosted show. The NBC stations now carry reruns of Bravo’s The Real Housewives reality franchise. The deal is coming to an end, and industry insiders believe it won’t be renewed for next season. The stations may go with a show for next fall that would serve as a placeholder for Couric. Additionally, the NBC O&Os’ deal for Nate Berkus expires in the fall of 2012, which could create another opening. “They are a very likely candidate for a Katie Couric syndicated show,” one observer said of the NBC stations. On the production side, a high-profile project like a Katie Couric talker would be a shot in the arm for NBC’s anemic syndication division, which was behind the disastrous Pauley show and has not produced a talk show since another ill-fated attempt, The Megan Mullally Show, in 2006. I hear that new NBC Broadcast chairman Ted Harbert, who oversees both NBC’s station group and domestic syndication unit, has been spearheading efforts to woo former Today host Couric back to NBC, working with syndication veteran Ed Wilson, who has been advising Couric along with former NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker. (more…)