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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Katie Couric's new ABC talk show raises doubts about the future of longtime soap General Hospital

b-katie-couric-hair-494eb31e0151.jpeg(UPDATE: An ABC spokesperson says the network plans to pick its two strongest shows to join Couric in daytime in fall 2012. Right now, the network plans to schedule new shows The Revolution and The Chew to replace All My Children and One Life to Live by January 2012.

When Couric's show debuts in September 2012, ABC will hand back the last hour of its daytime block to affiliates, allowing the station it owns to air Couric at 3 p.m. Non-ABC owned affiliates maychoose to air something else, especially if couric's show proves too expensive.

In a way, the network seems to be hedging its bets. If The Chew or The Revolution don't work, they still have General Hospital as a fall back. And they can announce a definite timeslot for Couric's show on their stations without announcing the death of the network's last soap opera.

Also bear in mind that Couric's show is syndicated -- meaning it is sold to different TV stations is each market, regardless of network affiliation.

But fans with Nielsen connections better start watching a lot of General Hospital if they want their program to survive.) 

As with all things Katie Couric these days, the official announcement today by ABC that she was doing a talk show with them was already old news; the New York Times' ace TV reporter, Bill Carter greeted readers this morning with a detailed story on how she landed at the one Big Three network where she hasn't yet had big time anchor job.

It's a multiplatform deal, meaning Couric could appear on other ABC outlets as soon as this summer, filing reports or making appearances on Good Morning America, Nightline, World News Tonight or 20/20.

But there is one detail about her new venture, buried deep in the press release, which sparks new interest.

The network says eight ABC-owned stations in major markets have agreed to air her show at 3 p.m., including outlets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh/Durham and Fresno, representing nearly 23% of the nation’s TV households.

But General Hospital already airs at 3 p.m. EST. So what happens to that show? Will Couric start her talk show tenure at ABC as the woman who killed GH?

ABC's press release says: "As part of the announcement, the network is set to return the last hour of its Daytime network block to affiliates no earlier than September 2012, but continues to support General Hospital." Clear as mud.

katiecouric2.jpgOtherwise, ABC's release confirms much of what was in Carter's excellent story: The show will be executive produced by former NBC executive, ex Today show producer and longtime Couric pal Jeff Zucker (raising the question: Who goes from running a major broadcast network to executive producing a syndicated TV show? Even for a star like Couric? And even with profit participation?)

The show will be based in New York City and debut in September 2012. But ABC viewers will see her much sooner; beginning this summer as part of the agreement, Couric will also "anchor specials, contribute interviews and participate in special events coverage" for all ABC News platforms.

So Couric could find herself competing against her former Today show compatriots as a guest host on Good Morning America or providing special reports on World News Tonight, further confusing network news viewers who just saw her on CBS weeks ago. And once her talk show starts next year, she could be in the position of funneling viewers to Diane Sawyer's evening news show, which competes against her successor, Scott Pelley, on CBS.

TV makes strange bedfellows indeed.

Below is ABC's release and a release from ABC News president Ben Sherwood welcoming Couric.

courickatie.preview.jpgAward-winning Journalist, Best-Selling Author & Television Personality  To Host and Produce Syndicated National One-Hour Daily Daytime Show Premiering in September 2012. Couric to also Join ABC News Team

Disney/ABC Television Group (DATG) has signed a multi-year, multi-platform agreement with Katie Couric, award-winning journalist, best-selling author and popular TV personality, to host and produce her own nationally syndicated talk show and to join the ABC News team, it was announced today by Anne Sweeney, president, Disney/ABC Television Group and co-chair, Disney Media Networks. The program will be distributed by Disney/ABC Domestic Television and will premiere in September 2012.

Couric, the former “Today” co-anchor who was most recently anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” a “60 Minutes” correspondent and host of the weekly online interview series, @katiecouric, will be reunited with Jeff Zucker, who will be an executive producer with Couric on the yet-to-be-named syndicated series, which will be based in New York and produced in conjunction with Disney/ABC.

In addition to hosting the new syndicated program, Couric will join the ABC News team, contributing to all programs and platforms. Beginning this summer, Couric, winner of the distinguished duPont, Murrow and Cronkite Awards and numerous Emmys, will anchor specials, contribute interviews, participate in special events coverage and bring her many talents to bear on some of the most important and interesting stories of the day.

In making the announcement, Ms. Sweeney stated: “Katie Couric is one of television’s iconic figures and we are thrilled to have forged such an exciting partnership with her. We look forward to having Katie join the best News team in the business, and to working with her to create a dynamic and successful talk show franchise.”

couric1.jpgMs. Couric added: “I’m very happy to be returning to the network where I began my career as a desk assistant in 1979. It is tremendously exciting to have the creative freedom to develop my own show with Anne Sweeney, the Disney/ABC TV Group and Jeff, and to contribute to such a vibrant, innovative news division. I can’t wait to be part of this incredibly talented, visionary team.”

“It was a blast working with Katie at ‘Today’ and I’m excited to do it again,” said Zucker. “And besides, it should be more fun spending time with Katie at 3 or 4 in the afternoon than at 3 or 4 in the morning.”

The eight ABC Owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh/Durham and Fresno, which represent nearly 23% of the nation’s TV households, have already cleared the new show in the 3:00 p.m. time slot. As part of the announcement, the network is set to return the last hour of its Daytime network block to affiliates no earlier than September 2012, but continues to support “General Hospital,” and the plans to launch “The Chew” in September of this year and “The Revolution” in January 2012.

ABC News President Ben Sherwood sent the following email to ABC News staff:

I'm pleased to share important news: Anne Sweeney is announcing at this hour that Katie Couric will join the Disney/ABC Television Group to produce and host a syndicated daytime talk show that will debut in the Fall of 2012.

While her primary mission will be to create and launch the new show, Katie is also joining our team at ABC News this summer, bringing her many talents to some of the most important and interesting stories of the day.

A versatile journalist, interviewer and storyteller, Katie will contribute across all of our broadcasts and online, joining our powerhouse line-up of anchors and correspondents as the ultimate utility player. Katie is committed to helping us uphold the great traditions of ABC News as we strive to build the news division of the future.

ABC News President Ben Sherwood sent the following email to ABC News staff:

I'm pleased to share important news: Anne Sweeney is announcing at this hour that Katie Couric will join the Disney/ABC Television Group to produce and host a syndicated daytime talk show that will debut in the Fall of 2012.

While her primary mission will be to create and launch the new show, Katie is also joining our team at ABC News this summer, bringing her many talents to some of the most important and interesting stories of the day.

A versatile journalist, interviewer and storyteller, Katie will contribute across all of our broadcasts and online, joining our powerhouse line-up of anchors and correspondents as the ultimate utility player. Katie is committed to helping us uphold the great traditions of ABC News as we strive to build the news division of the future.

Katie Couric's new hour-long syndicated talk show will premiere on ABC in September 2012; Couric also joins ABC News in a multi-platform deal announced by Disney/ABC.Katie's remarkable career spans more than three decades. In 2010, she won the duPont Award for her interview with Sarah Palin. In 2008 and 2009, Couric's CBS Evening News was honored with the Murrow Award for Best Newscast. In 2004, she was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. In 2001, she won a Murrow Award for Overall Excellence and in 2000 she earned a Peabody Award for her landmark series on colon cancer.

While many are familiar with her myriad accomplishments, I'm delighted to remind you that Katie got her start in our business in 1979 as an ABC News desk assistant in our Washington bureau.

On a personal note, I've known Katie for 14 years, and even with all of her success, I'm confident that her best days, biggest scoops and most powerful journalism lie directly ahead.

So help me to welcome Katie (@katiecouric) back to ABC News. This is a great day as we all look forward to new possibilities.

 

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 7:20am]

    

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