Will ABC Cancel ‘General Hospital’ for Katie Couric?

Just a few weeks after ABC announced that it is canceling “All My Children” and “One Life To Live“, TMZ is reporting that it has made a 20 million dollar deal for Katie Couric to both host a syndicated daytime talk show and report for its news programs including 20/20 and serving as a fill-in anchor on the evening news. The network is allegedly poised to cancel “General Hospital” to make room for Couric’s program, completing eliminating daytime soaps from ABC”s line-up. ABC issued a statement saying that it had “”No comment at this time,” which is not exactly a denial.

The terms of Couric’s exit deal with CBS give the Tiffany network until June 4th to match any offer that she receives. That means ABC cannot officially close a deal for several weeks. Since Couric’s new show would be syndicated, it may not end up on ABC in every market. Though the show could be slated for the 3PM timeslot currently occupied by GH, the soap could move to either AMC or OLTL’s current timeslot. It is also possible that the network could drop either of its new shows, “The Chew” and “The Revolution,” in favor of Couric.

“General Hospital” Sneak Peek:

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Would ABC really replace its entire daytime line-up with unproven new programming in one fell swoop? The network is not just losing its soaps. “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which mainly airs on ABC affiliates, airs its last episode later this month. “Live With Regis and Kelly” is losing Regis, and it is unknown whether the show will continue to perform well with a new co-host. A few months ago the prospect seemed unthinkable. ABC was the one network that seemed committed to its soap line-up. However, once Disney decided to turn SoapNET into Disney Junior, its daytime dramas began to seem expendable. After weeks of rumors that either AMC or OLTL could be on the chopping block., the network canceled them both on April 14th, with AMC slated to air its final episode in September and OLTL leaving the airwaves in January, 2012. Even after AMC and OLTL’s cancellation, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons insisted that GH was safe, telling Deadline, “We feel very positive about its place on the schedule.” Frons also denied that ABC Daytime was interested in Couric. Since Couric will be working for ABC’s syndication and news divisions, rather than ABC Daytime, he technically was telling the truth. In fact, it is possible that he was not even aware of the impending offer at the time he made those statements.

However, almost from the start there were rumors that GH was living on borrowed time, and the network planned to replace it in September 2012. The network seems to have decided that soap operas are dead. GH is consistently the number two soap in all key demographics. The week of Sonny and Brenda’s wedding, it tied “The Young & the Restless” for number one among Women 18-49. GH is also the best known soap on television. Its name is still a powerful brand. Even people who have never watched an episode know who Luke and Laura are. The soap garnered a ton of publicity when Jams Franco guest-starred last year, even getting a shout out at the Oscars. Though the show has been in a ratings slump for the past few weeks, this is in no way a show that can be can be written off as dead. The odds that a new show, even one hosted by America’s journalist sweetheart, would do as well are slim. In the 1990s, when former “Today” host Jane Pauley launched a syndicated talk show, it bombed. Given that Couric stands to earn $20 million dollars, and that her producing partner Jeffrey Zucker — who planned to cancel “Days of Our Lives” when he was running NBC — undoubtedly will earn a hefty salary –it seems like her show will be about as expensive to produce as a daytime soap. If GH is canceled, it’s because ABC has decided it no longer wants to air soap operas, not because the show is dead.

“General Hospital’s” Becky Herbst Temporarily Recast With “Days of Our Lives” Star

Becky Herbst, who is currently in the midst of a frontburner storyline as Liz Weber on “General Hospital” will be temporarily replaced by Martha Madison, best known for playing Belle on “Days of Our Lives.” According to Soaps In Depth, Herbst has viral meningitis and will need to take about two weeks off to recuperate. This could give Madison the opportunity to perform with the original actress who played Belle, Kristen Storms, since the character she plays on GH, Maxie, is currently Liz’s confidante. It has been a difficult few months for Herbst who was fired, rehired and now has to worry about whether GH will be canceled. After this illness, the universe owes her something great — perhaps a juicy primetime guest star role.

It’s No Fluke: “One Life to Live” is Once Again ABC’s Most Watched Soap

Another week of ratings, another week of the canceled “One Life To Live” having the most total viewers of any ABC soap. OLTL again beat “General Hospital” in total viewers (2,544,000 versus 2,524,000) tied it in Household ratings (1.9/6) and beat it in the Women 18-34 demographic (0.6/4 versus 0.5/4). OLTL continues to be the only soap to gain viewers from the same week a year ago (+233,000) Unfortunately, instead of having second thoughts about canceling OLTL, ABC seems to be considering GH’s ratings woes as reason to consider pulling the plug. Memo to the network: it’s not that people have lost interest in GH. It’s that your target audience of mothers may find that a show that simultaneously features major storylines about the death of a four year old and the kidnapping of a toddler a little too dark to be escapist entertainment.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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