The ultimate winner in Disney/ABC’s short-term relationship with Katie Couric will end up being CBS Television Distribution.
With Couric’s daytime talker ending its run after this season, the ABC Owned Television Stations have picked up second runs of CTD’s Jeopardy! in four markets — WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles, WPVI Philadelphia and WTVD Raleigh-Durham, N.C. — which the stations are expected to pair with double runs of Disney/ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire. ABC-owned KGO San Francisco already double-runs Jeopardy! CTD distributes Jeopardy!, and Sony Pictures Television produces it.
While that new one-hour game block may not necessarily run at 3 p.m., where it would literally replace Katie, it will help ABC fill the daytime programming hole that Katie is leaving and at much less cost. ABC had no comment about the changes, other than to say that its stations’ fall schedules have not yet been finalized.
Earlier this year, the ABC Owned Stations also added CTD’s Rachael Ray in four markets: KABC Los Angeles, WLS Chicago, KGO San Francisco, and KTRK Houston. Those moves represent upgrades for the show: in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the show moves to ABC stations off of CBS-owned duopolies. In Chicago, it moves from Tribune’s WGN to the very strong WLS, and in Houston it moves from NRJ’s tiny independent, KUBE to KTRK.
Disney/ABC had tried to develop or acquire a new first-run show to replace Katie, including an attempt to steal Warner Bros.’ Ellen from NBC, but didn’t come up with anything it liked well enough to pursue.
The group is now turning its development thoughts to fall 2015. In October, Lisa Hackner — who has worked at Warner Bros.’ first-run development division, Telepictures, and at Universal — was named executive VP of daytime and syndicated programming for ABC Entertainment Group.
When news first broke in early 2011 that Couric was finally seriously interested in doing a daytime talker — something that NBC had tried to convince her to do before she became the anchor of the CBS Evening News in 2006 — CTD had been considered the front-runner. Ultimately, Couric’s salary requirements — said to be $20 million annually — brought an end to those negotiations and Couric headed to Disney/ABC.
Couric’s talk show never took off as hoped, and although the ratings were respectable in relationship to today’s daytime environment, the cost of the show and Couric’s dwindling interest in continuing sealed its fate. In November 2013, Couric was named global anchor of Yahoo news, for which she is reportedly earning $6 million a year. This week's interview with former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg was her first official interview in that capacity.