Couric Announces New Show

Katie Couric and ABC announced Monday the launch of a syndicated talk show.

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Goodbye, Oprah. Hello, Katie. ABC officially announced today that it's developing a new daytime talk show for Katie Couric. The anchor has been on a job hunt since leaving "CBS Evening News."

But as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, today's announcement shed little light on her latest plans.

NEDA ULABY: Since March, Katie Couric has not been shy about being in limbo.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Late Show with David Letterman")

Ms. KATIE COURIC (Journalist): I'm figuring out what I want to do, and I'm just sort of in the process of, you know, figuring out the future.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The View")

Ms. COURIC: I'm talking about certain opportunities and...

(Soundbite of TV show, "Tavis Smiley")

Ms. COURIC: I am still kind of mulling my opportunities for the future.

ULABY: That's Couric on the "Late Show with David Letterman," "The View" and "Tavis Smiley," all within the past two months. During that time, she was courted by CBS, which wanted to keep her in spite of her low ratings as anchor. NBC wanted her, too. Years ago, it profited from Couric's easy connection with audiences and interviewees, back when she hosted the "Today" show. But the battle for Katie Couric was won by ABC. Its plan is to reunite her with the man who many years ago, helped her dominate the ratings.

Mr. ANDREW TYNDALL (Television Analyst): Jeff Zucker...

ULABY: That's television analyst Andrew Tyndall.

Mr. TYNDALL: ...her star executive producer in her glory days at the "Today" show.

ULABY: Couric's performance on the "Today" show still has people thinking an interview format can play to her strengths.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Today")

Ms. COURIC: But what if you do have the date from hell, and you're so turned off to...

ULABY: But can this team re-create its earlier ratings magic? Doubtful, says Tyndall. Their success had maybe less to do with their brilliance than the fact that the "Today" show is a rock-solid franchise.

Mr. TYNDALL: And that's, I think, proven by the fact that "Today" show has gone on from strength to strength even after Couric left, and even after Zucker have left.

ULABY: Nevertheless, ABC's counting on Couric to do for afternoon programming what she failed to do for the evening news - rescue a timeslot in decline. ABC just lost Oprah, and it needs a new daytime star. But even Oprah's audiences have significantly declined since her show's peak. Tyndall thinks the cards are stacked against Couric, too.

Mr. TYNDALL: Just as Couric wasn't able to revive the evening news, she won't be able to revive afternoon television, either.

ULABY: This is all awfully pessimistic, but Tyndall says don't blame a top celebrity journalist trying to persevere in a world profoundly different from the one she started out in. The broadcast networks no longer have a monopoly on audiences. Where they once were able to push people to watch their journalism, now they're depending on star power to grab viewers.

Mr. TYNDALL: In other words, it was the television that delivered the audience to the journalist, rather than the journalist that attracted the audience to television.

ULABY: Part of Couric's challenge will be creating a show that's new school, not just trotting old ground in a familiar format. The show is scheduled now for 3 p.m. in many major markets. Couric reportedly wanted the 4 p.m. timeslot, a piece of television real estate that formerly belonged to Oprah. Three p.m. is "General Hospital's," another network format that seems to be fading away.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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