Amid talk that she is in negotiations for a lucrative studio deal (B&C, April 2, 2007 ), Rosie O'Donnell is leaving The View after just a season on the daytime talker. The controversial co-host announced on the program this morning that she will leave the show when her contract expires in mid-June. ABC, which airs the show, has not named a replacement.
In a story posted to ABCNews.com, View creator/co-executive producer Barbara Walters called the split amicable while O'Donnell said her "needs for the future just didn't dovetail with with what ABC was able to offer me." Disney-ABC daytime chief Brian Frons said O'Donnell and the company were "unable to agree on some key elements." On the program, Walters said the negotiations were between O'Donnell's agent and ABC Daytime.
"This is not my doing," she said.
Industry insiders have been predicting O'Donnell's departure from the View sorority since early on in her brief stead with the program (
). Options discussed include another syndicated, celeb-focused show; a game show; a late-night network program; or a cable show, where her colorful language could be less inhibited.
Through well-publicized on-air feuds with Donald Trump and her own co-hosts, O'Donnell has helped bring The View its highest ratings in its decade-long run. Still, they don't approach those that her own Warner Bros.-syndicated The Rosie O'Donnell Show pulled in for much of its run, prompting talks that she's angling for a solo deal again.
During fourth quarter 2006, The View attracted an average 3.36 million total viewers, spiking to a show-record 4.34 million on Dec. 26, at the height of the O’Donnell/Trump imbroglio. Rosie peaked at 6.05 million viewers at the end of its debut season and hovered around 3.7 million for the next few years before limping to an end in 2002 with 2 million viewers.
Amidst boycott threats against Disney and ABC for comments she made about Sept. 11, O'Donnell was said to be weighing offers from bidders, including CBS Television Distribution, to do another show of her own. Executives familiar with the matter put her annual asking price to re-up at The View at $40 million a year - $5 million more than Dr. Phil's estimated pay.
Disney had the rights to negotiate with O'Donnell first and she had said in a recent video blog that she would make up her mind after a family meeting in May. Her departure leaves the show down two permanent co-hosts; ABC never hired a replacement for Star Jones when she left last year.
ABC Daytime brass have taken care to praise O'Donnell's contributions to the show and its ratings, while remaining aloof about her status on the program. Asked by B&C late last year to
, View executive producer Bill Geddie said:
"[The View] is not dependent on any one personality," he said. "And we’ve been very careful in the way we run the show to make sure everybody understands that. If everybody stays, that’s fantastic and makes my life easier. We’re doing so well and that’s wonderful. But if everybody goes, it’s my job to keep that show on the air and Barbara and I will do it.
In an interview
, Frons discounted the idea that O'Donnell's feuds were what brought the show its ratings gold this year.
"I don’t think people watch for the feuds," he said. "They watch for the day in day out intelligent repartee between the women on the panel about the events of the day."
Some in the industry thought O'Donnell's camp was floating rumors of her departure in the past months as a negotiating ploy to squeeze more money out of a View contract renewal. In 1996, when O’Donnell was actually called the Queen of Nice, she delighted station owners with The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and renewing the show cost stations a bundle.