As the intensely scrutinized first season of Katie Couric
talker Katie wraps, stations are
grading its performance—and wondering what the future holds for Katie, and for them. The show's station
partners, primarily ABC affiliates, mostly say the rookie did not meet ratings
expectations. Coupled with a lack of clarity on the show's existence beyond
2013-14, some are wondering if they should consider replacements.
"The results have not been as strong as we would've
liked," says Emily Barr, former WLS Chicago general manager who now heads
up the Post-Newsweek group. "We hope there's some changing and tweaking to
improve the connection with the audience."
Station veterans say they are surprised that there's not
been talk of renewals at this point, especially with the future ironed out in
recent weeks for Dr.
Williams and Steve
Harvey. "Everyone has their dates to the prom, or they're not
going to the prom," says one GM airing Katie
who asked to be unnamed. "Except one."
A spokesperson from Disney/ABC, which distributes Katie, did not comment at presstime.
Katie has been
beset by departures of high-level staffers. Rachel
Miskowiec recently took over as the third showrunner in its short tenure,
which was followed by the
departure of two coexecutive producers and the program's director.
Katie debuted to
considerable buzz last fall, but numerous station partners say it's failed to
find its voice as of yet—that they were sold a newsier show that's trended
toward the soft, and that Couric has failed to engage with viewers the way she
did for so many years on Today.
Of course, comparisons to Oprah Winfrey are inevitable—and
unfair. For starters, Oprah was on at
4 p.m. in most markets, and Katie is
typically on at 3 p.m., when viewing levels are lower. Second, daytime
television was competing with far fewer diversions in Oprah's time. Third, Oprah is Oprah.
"To be fair, Katie
is the highest rated new talk show," says Bill Carroll, VP and director of
programming at Katz Television Group. "Are ratings meeting expectations?
Steve Harvey, he
says, launched to much more modest expectations, thanks to a lower profile and
a weaker major-market platform in the NBC Owned Stations, and thus is viewed as
having a successful rookie year.
Some station chiefs say they've gotten fair bang for their
buck from Katie. Tom Tolar, vice
president and general manager at WRCB Chattanooga, says he wanted a
"compatible" lead-in to Ellen,
and has gotten one. He's awaiting May results, while in February, Katie posted a 2.9 household
rating-ahead of Let's Make a Deal
(2.8) and Family Feud (2.7).
"The show struggled to find its identity, but we think in the past few
months it became a solidly good show," he says. "Everyone would like
to see higher ratings, but it's a very watchable show."
Down in Birmingham, Katie
"holds her own" at 2 p.m., says Mike Murphy, president and general
manager at WBMA. Jeff Probst -- which
will not see a second season -- won the time slot with a 3.6, Katie was runner-up with a 2.8, and Wendy Williams posted a 2.3. (Bringing
up the rear were Anderson Live and Judge Alex.) "She does OK in the
time period," Murphy says. "But it's nothing compared to soaps a year
Others are less kind in their assessment of the show's
performance. "Devastating," says one. "I think a lot of people
would take anything but Katie at this point," says another.
beyond 2013-14 rests with the major ABC affiliate groups such as Hearst TV and
Scripps, which did not return calls for comment, and of course the ABC Owned
Stations that pay for a big chunk of the production. (The ABC Owned group did
not comment either.) The
announcement of Meredith Vieira's new show, expected to come this summer,
will only thicken the plot. B&C reported recently that Robin Roberts,
cohost of Good Morning America, was
being discussed for her own daytime show, but Roberts quashed that discussion
promptly, saying, "I am 100% focused on my health and anchoring GMA."
partners are at least considering their options, if not acting on them.
"You always explore what else might be on the horizon," says Barr.
"In some markets, maybe it's something local."
Carroll says affiliates' reactions to Katie's rookie season are a mixed bag.
"When expectations don't turn out to be reality, I think that's when the
questions come up," he says. "If the expectations had been met, I
think there would've been a renewal by now."