I hear Disney-ABC has launched a search for top-level producer(s) to take the reins of Katie Couric‘s syndicated daytime talk show. The contingency plan is being put in place as speculation intensifies that Katie executive producer Jeff Zucker would be leaving the freshman talker. I hear talks with potential candidates are under way, and a hire is expected within the next couple of weeks. Zucker has a major financial interest in Katie (some sources indicate he is poised to pocket $8 million from the $20 million guarantee to Couric and him), and is not likely to leave without a succession plan in place. But, having run one of the biggest media companies in the world, NBC Universal, he has been expected to jump back to the executive ranks. He currently has two lieutenants on the show: co-executive producers Michael Bass and Kathy Samuels.
There has been chatter about Zucker being courted for several top jobs, including CEO of Tribune, but attention has focused recently on the vacancy at CNN. With his strong news background, Zucker is considered a leading candidate to succeed CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton when he departs at the end of the year. Such timing would work for providing a smooth transition on Katie, which has a two-year deal with the ABC stations. (There are several other names bandied about for the CNN job including MSNBC head Phil Griffin and usual suspects David Westin, Andrew Heyward and Neal Shapiro). (more…)