AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It's supposed to be the big get: Katie Couric is giving up ABC News for Yahoo!. At one time she ruled morning TV at NBC as host of the "Today" show for 15 years. Now, Couric is getting OK ratings as host of a syndicated daytime talk show.
And joining us to help explain Katie Couric's Yahoo! move is NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Hey there, Eric.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey. How are you doing?
CORNISH: So let's start with why, right? Why would Katie Couric cut ties with ABC News to go to Yahoo!?
DEGGANS: Katie Couric at this point seems like a monster brand that's in search of a purpose. If we remember, she of course was at "Today" for many years, then moved to CBS News where she was top anchor - didn't seem to quite fit - and then moved to ABC, this grand deal which you would have a syndicated show. And she would also be a news personality who kind of appeared here and there on ABC News platforms, including a weeklong stint where she substituted for "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts.
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ROBIN ROBERTS ANCHOR, ABC TV: Katie, welcome.
KATIE COURIC: Hi, Robin.
TV: Great to see you. All right, let's...
COURIC: Nice to see you.
TV: Here are the keys to the joint.
COURIC: All right, have a great vacation.
TV: Aww, thank you for doing me a solid. Bye-bye.
COURIC: OK, I'll keep the seat warm.
TV: Do that. Woo-hoo.
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DEGGANS: Boy, they are really excited.
CORNISH: It's a subtle hand off. But did it lead to any shift in the ratings?
DEGGANS: Well, they got bigger ratings but not necessarily the ratings that people hoped for. There was a hope that they might unseat the "Today" show in its weekly ratings wins. It had been the top show up to that point for long time. And they weren't quite able to get over that hump. They got very close. And I think this is a cycle that we've seen with Katie Couric before: A big debut and then the ratings kind of taper off, and things don't necessarily draw as many viewers as people expected.
CORNISH: So this leads us back to Yahoo!. They have a relatively new, high-profile CEO, Marissa Mayer. But is there any sense of what Couric would actually be doing at Yahoo!?
DEGGANS: Yeah. Well, they said in the official announcement that she would be the face of the Yahoo! News. And there is a sense that Yahoo! has gone out there and hired a lot of high profiled journalist from what we call old-school legacy media. People like Matt Bai and David Pogue who worked for The New York Times. And Katie Couric is going to be the face of this new digital news operation.
So it will be interesting to see if they can take these people who've made a splash in the old-school media - old-school broadcast, old-school newspapers - and create something new in a digital space.
CORNISH: And so, what are the odds of this working out? What would be considered a success?
DEGGANS: Well, I - you know, in this new environment, trying something new, who knows what success looks like. But there's a sense that Katie Couric would draw attention, drug users, draw eyeballs. But, you know, she's done webcasts before. She did them at CBS News. She's done the ABC News and furl and syndicated show, "Katie." There's never been a sense that she has a really distinct, like digital personality - something that viral that people want to share.
It seems a little odd to take someone who's in their 50's and kind of make them the face of a digital news operation, where you would think the emphasis would be on cutting edge and being a little more youthful. So I have some doubts about this. But Katie Couric has always proven to be an appealing personality. The question is can she make that brand work in this new place.
CORNISH: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you.
DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.
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