Katie Couric exits ABC News to join Yahoo


Pending deal has no effect on daytime talk show, which is still on bubble

Katie Couric’s stint at ABC News is coming to a close.

But her syndicated talk show could be another story.

As first reported by The Hollywood reporter Friday evening, Ms. Couric is taking take a position at Yahoo!, the internet portal which was a huge player in the Internet’s early days (1999 or so), but took a back seat due to Google’s success.

The announcement became official today.

Couric would host an interview show that would be featured prominently on Yahoo’s home page. Yahoo is one of the country’s most visited web portals, with 200 million unique visitors. ABC News has a partnership with Yahoo.

“Katie is an incredible journalist and this was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up,” an ABC executive was quoted in a statement. “Thanks to the powerful association between ABC News and Yahoo, we know that Katie will continue to work closely with us and welcome her on our air any time.”

Couric was reportedly wooed by CEO Marissa Mayer, in order to beef up content on their portal and to compete more effectively with archrival Google.

Couric was signed to a deal with The Walt Disney Co. in 2011, and it included work with ABC News and an early-fringe talk show, sold almost predominantly to ABC affiliates, including its entire ABC O&O station group. To make room, ABC made the unprecedented move to give affiliates the 3 p.m. (ET) time slot to program locally, or more specifically, to air Katie.

Ratings for Katie have been disappointing amid reported backstage tensions between staff. Katie is already on its third executive producer in two years.

In the most recent Nielsen ratings, Katie is tied for sixth among all talk shows with a 1.8 household rating and is averaging a 0.9 rating among women 25-54, down 10 percent from last year according to TVNewsCheck. In Chicago, Katie ranks #1 at 3 p.m in households, but is flat from last year and is nowhere near what CBS Television Distribution’s Inside Edition and Jeopardy earned in the time slot two years ago.

Since September, rumors have circulated on Katie’s future, with many speculating her talk show would end after its second season. However, it future rests with the ABC O&Os, whose eight stations – including WLS-TV in Chicago – do not have a backup in place. ABC officials are not commenting.

Already, several station groups are making their plans for the 2014-15 season, and they do not involve Katie. Newscheck reported that NBC affiliates KHQ-TV in Spokane, Wash. and KNDO-TV in Yakima, Wash. have passed on Katie for a third season. Cost-conscious Scripps, who runs Katie in markets such as Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis (all ABC affiliates), is expected to drop the show as well.

If the ABC-owned stations pick up Katie for a third season, its station lineup would change dramatically, meaning the talk show could wind up on lesser-watched CW and My Network TV affiliates in some markets and thus, end up with lower license fees. In any case, ABC would likely ask Couric to take a pay cut to continue.

If the ABC-owned stations decide to pass on Katie for a third season (essentially ending the show), they would have to scramble to fill the vacated slot. WLS-TV could reinstate Inside Edition and Jeopardy from 3-4 p.m. and its 11 a.m. morning newscast, which it came under fire in some quarters for cancelling to make room for a relocated Windy City Live. WCL could move to the afternoons and take over the 2 p.m. slot.

But some stations would have it tougher than others. KABC-TV in Los Angeles would not only have to fill the slot vacated by Katie, but also the 2 p.m. slot being vacated by Sony’s Dr. Oz, which is moving back to Fox-owned KTTV next fall. Speculation has centred on ABC filling the slots with Who Wants to Be A Millionaire and Jeopardy reruns, but not all ABC-owned stations have rights to those shows, i.e. KTRK in Houston has rights to Millionaire but not to Jeopardy, which rests with CBS affiliate KHOU.

This a situation ABC’s owned stations haven’t been in for more than a generation (thanks to the long success of The Oprah Winfrey Show), and should have been more prepared for.

Edited on 2013-11-25 at 7:18 p.m.