Her Disney/ABC talk show may not be renewed for a third season, according to one report, which notes the reasons include soft ratings, a huge budget and a lack of wanting to cater to her target demo. As well, Q Scores report only 10% of women view Couric favorably.
“Stations throughout the U.S. are contracted to carry Katie Couric’s syndicated talk show through summer 2014, but the decision on whether Katie will score a third season likely will be made this month — and renewal seems a long shot,” noted a Hollywood Reporter feature.
In fall 2012, Disney/ABC TV rolled out the red carpet for Couric, giving her an annual budget was $50 million — including $20 million for Couric over two years. That budget has since been brought down to $35 million. Station owners now complain the daily syndicated show hasn’t lived up to the hype, and several insiders tell THR that internal discord has become nearly unbearable.
Disney/ABC projected the reteaming of Couric with her Today executive producer Jeff Zucker would average a 2.5 household rating, which would have made Katie one of the biggest syndicated launches. Instead, it averaged a 1.7 during its first season and a 1.8 so far this season. (A Couric spokesman insists she never approved the 2.5 projection.)
And from the start, turnover has plagued the show. Zucker left for CNN about halfway through the first season, followed by co-executive producer Michael Bass. Michael Morrison assumed Zucker’s role but was replaced in May by Rachel Miskowiec, a former EP of The Tyra Banks Show. Co-EPs Kathy Samuels and Ethan Nelson then left in what was called a cost-cutting move. Director Joe Terry also left.
Katie insiders say the problem is that Couric has refused to shape shows with softer features to appeal to daytime’s key 25-to-54-year-old female demo, insisting instead on the kind of harder-edged interviews she enjoyed on Today and her stint as anchor of CBS Evening News.
“She has a complete and utter disdain for the audience she needs to appeal to,” one former employee told THR. “In her mind, the Today show was [the model] — professional women getting ready for work. Anyone home after 9 o’clock are people she has no interest in appealing to. But she also loved the $20 million paycheck.”
Disney/ABC is now talking to stations about renewing Katie, but many owners are said to have concerns. Eight Disney-owned stations pay higher license fees than others; and the network gave back an hour of daytime to stations to provide a place for Katie — an hour stations likely won’t give back if the show is canceled.
“The owned stations are really carrying a burden,” says an ABC affiliate GM. “There’s no doubt [Katie] has damaged the lead-in to newscasts.”