Couric, Lake among 2012 syndie talk show contenders

While The Race to Replace Oprah has come and gone with a whimper (and a missed opportunity to use this annoying phrase repeatedly), the 2012 development season is shaping up to be a different story with two familiar names leading the pack thus far, according to a pair of exclusives Broadcasting & Cable reported on its website Monday.

Current CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric’s $15 million a year salary expires in three months and word on the street is she’s looking to launch a production company and her own syndicated daytime talk show for fall 2012. Leading the charge is syndication veteran Ed Wilson, a well-respected individual who has headed up syndication operations at NBC Enterprises, Tribune, and others. Showing interest in a Couric syndie talker would be CBS Television Distribution (owned by CBS Corp.) and NBC Universal Television. If she were to launch a talk show, she would need to depart the CBS Evening News when her contract expires.

If Couric succeeds in doing so, a likely home would be NBC’s owned-and-operated stations – but if the show is distributed by sister company NBCU, though who syndicates it could possibly be flexible. Couric is still best remembered for her 15-year run as co-host of NBC’s Today, rather than her current stint at CBS Evening News, which remains in third place in the network evening news race.

While the article notes Couric would not be a good fit for Tribune given its conflict talkers or the Fox O&Os because of its cost, keep in mind Chicago stations’ needs are different from other markets where O&Os are prevalent.  For instance, Tribune-owned WGN-TV airs Live with Regis & Kelly (which usually airs on ABC O&Os) and airs only one of NBC Universal’s conflict talkers (Maury) as opposed to New York’s WPIX and Los Angeles’ KTLA, which airs all three (locally, Jerry Springer and The Steve Wilkos Show both air on Weigel’s WCIU.) Couric’s show could wind up on WGN or Fox-owned WFLD absent of any group deal.

Couric is not the only name throwing her hat into the syndie talk ring for fall 2012: Ricki Lake is plotting a talk show comeback. The 42 year-old mother of two has been meeting with Twentieth Television and at least one broadcast group rep and interest in her has also been piqued by both CTD and NBCU. A deal hinges on whether or not Couric signs on with the two latter syndicators. Unlike her previous effort, Lake plans to aim her new show at  a older female audience, as opposed to the young-female driven talker she hosted in her heyday.

Lake pioneered the young-female skewing conflict format (for better or worse) when her talk show launched on September 13, 1993. The series got off to a slow ratings start, but quickly grew into a young female powerhouse, often finishing second behind The Oprah Winfrey Show among females 18-34 and 18-49, and delivered Columbia (now Sony) Pictures Television its first first-run syndication hit in its 40-year history. Typical topics would include man-stealing, paternity tests, homophobia, dysfunctional families, and more – the material which is the basis of oh- so many reality television series.

By 1998 however, Jerry Springer upped the ante in the sleaze department and eclipsed Lake in the ratings. Lake retired from the daily talk show grind on August 27, 2004, as Sony was more interested in pushing View rip-off and future dud Life & Style – perhaps the worst daytime talk show to ever air in the history of television (not to mention a member of The T Dog Media Blog TV Hall Of Shame, so that validates it.) Lake has been itching to return to daytime television since 2005 – a year removed from her show and the same year Life & Style limped off the air.