By Steve McClellan and Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/28/2002 8:00:00 PM
Buena Vista has apparently settled on The View's Meredith Vieira to host the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. At press time, the deal had not been signed but was "imminent," said one source with knowledge of the situation. The deal would keep Vieira at The View, as well as make her host of the game show.
Vieira had also received overtures from CBS to replace Bryant Gumbel as The Early Show host, and, apparently, one way ABC could justify upping her pay to keep her at The View was to have her host the syndication game as well.
The choice received mixed reviews by the CBS-owned stations and affiliates that cleared the show for fall 2002.
CBS stations taking Millionaire include the top three markets as well as O&Os in Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. Some of them were hoping that Survivor host Jeff Probst would get the job—and serve as a daily reminder of the network's hit prime time show. Instead, they'll be carrying a daily reminder of competing ABC's daytime hit.
One CBS executive said the choice was disappointing but the net was resigned to Buena Vista's decision. The CBS group "can rattle its sabers, but it doesn't have final say over the host," the exec said. "All the big companies understand that these things happen. Disney wanted to do what's right for Disney." Maybe, the exec suggested, Vieira's appearances on The View would serve as a promotion for the daily Millionaire.
Millionaire has a fair number of ABC stations in larger markets, including KOMO-TV Seattle; WTFS(TV) Tampa, Fla.; KATU(TV) Portland, Ore.; and WMAR-TV Baltimore.
But even one CBS exec suggested that Vieira's presence on The View is "too secondary to worry about. People want the show to work, and, if she makes it work, then it's the right choice." Other station execs were stunned. Said one, "They've been saying they were looking for a younger, male host with a comedic background."
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