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Decision 2012: The Race Heats Up

Katie Couric and Ricki Lake among possibilities for new talk shows 3/21/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

And they're off. When B&C broke the
news last week that CBS
Evening News
anchor Katie Couric
had enlisted former Fox and
NBC executive Ed Wilson to help
formulate a possible syndication
plan and former daytime star
Ricki Lake was shopping shows
to distributors, it signaled that
the race for 2012 was officially
on. While neither project is a
done deal, the fact that both potential
daytime hosts are making
the rounds indicates that things
are heating up for what will debut
just 18 months from now.

“I’d use the analogy of the
2012 presidential race,” says
Bill Carroll, VP of programming for Katz Television Group. “There
are a number of people considering running, but they have to put
out the word to get feedback to decide whether it makes sense. Has
the race officially started? No. But has it unofficially started, with
everyone commenting on these candidates’ possibilities? Yes.”

There’s been a lot of talk about fall 2011 because that’s when Oprah
Winfrey will wrap her syndicated show. Instead of creating a huge
infl ux of talent, though, only Warner Bros. brought out a big name
in Anderson Cooper.

But Oprah’s departure to full-time cable executress did allow some
syndicators to upgrade shows, such as Warner Bros.’ Ellen and Sony’s
Dr. Oz, to better time slots, while most of the ABC stations, where
CBS Television Distribution’s Oprah has aired since its launch, elected
to expand newscasts or launch local programs. Instead of opening up
new real estate, Oprah’s departure has created
syndication musical chairs.

In the long term, however, there’s a real need
for syndications and stations to take some big
shots in daytime. Couric, especially, could
be that shot. After her 15 successful years on
NBC’s Today, Couric is a proven daytime commodity,
but stations will have to step up with
significant cash to make that show work. “Katie
reeks of news lead-in,” says one syndication executive.
“That’s good. That brings the money.”

Several syndicators —including
CBS and NBC Universal—
are interested in getting into
business with Couric because
“there’s nothing else out there
that could be that sort of gamechanger,”
says the executive.

Meanwhile, after nearly 11
years of hosting daytime talk,
Lake is also a known commodity,
for better or worse. When
Lake exited her show in 2004,
it had fallen to last place among
talkers with a 1.3 average household
rating. That gives stations
an indication of what performance
to expect from any new
Lake vehicle, although a reboot
could bring new viewers.

Sources say that while NBCU,
CTD and Twentieth Television are interested in Lake, Couric’s fate
must first be determined before distributors will decide whether or
not to take on Ricki.

TV stations’ plans for 2011 are mostly firm, but there a few shows
that won’t be on the airwaves come fall. CBS Television Distribution’s
The Lawyers—pitched and produced by The Doctors’ executive producer,
Jay McGraw —is not going forward for September. And both
of Twentieth’s game shows—Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? and
Don’t Forget the Lyrics—are going off the air. My Network TV will
replace both of those programs, which air on MyNet in primetime on
Tuesdays, with other acquisitions to be announced later.

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and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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