Seismic shifts involving a half-dozen top TV personalities are roiling the waters of morning and afternoon television, resulting in new stories everyday about possible comings and goings, prospective talk shows and potential host pairings.
When the dust settles, both morning and afternoon TV could be significantly altered, but only if you believe every scenario that’s been floated around lately. Here’s what’s happening, including the latest rumors this week, in an unfolding, multifaceted drama that involves Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Matt Lauer, Chris Cuomo, Regis Philbin and, underlying it all, Oprah Winfrey.
Katie Couric: We all assume by now that it’s all but certain her days as anchor of “The CBS Evening News” are numbered. And even she has confirmed she’s talking to various parties about hosting a syndicated daytime talk show. Now the latest story – published here in the Wall Street Journal – is that she could be talking with Matt Lauer, her old mate from NBC’s “Today” show about the two of them co-hosting a daytime show, with former NBC honcho – and their former producer – Jeff Zucker at the helm. We’re reacting to this one in the manner of Mr. Spock: It’s highly illogical because we can’t imagine why Couric would want to share the spotlight with anyone, even an old colleague.
Meredith Vieira: Though it hasn’t been confirmed by anyone but unnamed sources (the same goes for all of these stories, by the way), Vieira seems to have decided to leave the “Today” show when her contracts ends (though no one has said anything about her quitting the daytime version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” from which she also makes a tidy sum). However, her possible exit has suddenly given Matt Lauer all kinds of leverage.
Matt Lauer: As a result of the uncertainty at “Today,” Lauer is said to be asking for a huge raise – a salary of $25 million annually, according to TMZ – because he realizes (or his agent realizes) that, with Meredith leaving, it’s even more essential for NBC that Lauer stays. Otherwise, TV’s top-rated morning show might not be top-rated for long.
Chris Cuomo: What does he have to do with it? He’s over at ABC minding his own business as co-anchor of “20/20,” but a story in the New York Post says he’s being eyed by NBC brass as a possible replacement for Lauer. Cuomo, of course, has morning-TV experience (he’s a “GMA” vet) and he’ll cost a lot less than Lauer (provided Cuomo wants the job at all).
Regis Philbin: Of course, let’s not forget that Reege is exiting “Live” later this year, leaving Kelly Ripa and her producers to find a replacement for him. Rumors on who that will be have not really been circulating lately, but they will be. And the latest news on Regis is that he’s out there, at age 80, pitching himself for a solo syndicated talk show of his own. We all love Regis Philbin, but the odds seem long that any of the big TV companies will invest millions in a daytime show for him. Here’s one reason why: In his very long career, Regis has rarely, if ever, hosted a show by himself. He’s a co-host, not a solo act.
Oprah Winfrey: Why bring her up? Because the likes of Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and even Regis Philbin would not be testing the waters of daytime syndication if Oprah had not decided to leave the arena this season. The void she’s leaving in her wake is the whole reason everyone is so interested, all of a sudden, in talking about new daytime talk shows.
Meanwhile, Couric is scheduled to be a guest on the “Today” show — on NBC, with Matt Lauer — on Wednesday to promote her new book. And just in case you’re thinking the appearance on NBC means she’s estranged from her own network, she’s scheduled to appear on “The Early Show” on CBS before “Today,” on Tuesday morning.