Jonathan Storm: Talk show, ABC News for Couric
The ex-CBS News anchor gets a 3 p.m. weekday slot in 2012 and joins the news team this summer.
Katie Couric will be getting a 3 p.m. weekday talk show on big-city ABC stations in September 2012, and she will join ABC News this summer, in a deal announced by Disney/ABC Monday.
Couric, 54, will appear on all ABC News programs and platforms, the company said, and will "anchor specials, contribute interviews, [and] participate in special events coverage." Diane Sawyer will remain as anchor of the flagship ABC World News.
Disney will syndicate Couric's talk show, executive-produced by former NBC boss and longtime Couric crony Jeff Zucker, which means it would be sold around the country to station groups and local independent stations, which could air it whenever they want. But ABC-owned stations, including Philadelphia's 6ABC, serving about a quarter of American viewers, will schedule it at 3 p.m.
The arrangement is seen, in part, as a way to fill the void left at those stations when Oprah Winfrey's show, almost universally aired at 4 p.m., wrapped in May. Five of the seven largest ABC-owned stations, including 6ABC, have filled the slot with local news and information programming.
In April, ABC announced the cancellation of the soap operas One Life to Live and All My Children, to be replaced by shows about cooking and health and lifestyle. Disney/ABC reaffirmed its commitment to those shows and also said it "continues to support" the network's one remaining soap opera, General Hospital.
Couric's talk show is described as primarily interviews, heavy on the kind of human-interest stories that were her forte at NBC's Today before she left to anchor The CBS Evening News five years ago, a position that ran out last month. Since it would be produced only 39 weeks a year and in reruns the rest of the time, the show would not be able to rely on news. Feature and performance segments, like those on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, may also be part of Couric's lineup.
The Hollywood Reporter puts Couric's pay at between $5 million and $10 million annually for both jobs. She could boost that, if the talk show is a success - far from guaranteed despite her name recognition - and she can renew her two-year contract with more favorable terms.
With Sawyer, Christiane Amanpour, and Barbara Walters, Couric's hiring gives ABC the blue-chip stable of female news-talk stars. Couric said, "I'm very happy to be returning to the network where I began my career as a desk assistant in 1979."