Rumors Persist that All is Not Well at Katie Couric’s Talk Show

Katie Couric, seen last week in New York (Photo: Getty Images)

While ABC paints a rosy picture of success for Katie Couric’s talk show, rumors persist that the show is in trouble, with ratings that aren’t meeting the expectations of affiliates, and a revolving door that has seen the show’s founding executive producers leave before the end of its first season.

The most recent story about trouble at “Katie” is this one posted Saturday on the New York Post Web site.

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Like a similar story that appeared earlier in the week on a Fox News Web site, the Post story cites unnamed sources — and quotes them — who insist that the Couric talk show’s underperforming ratings have ABC brass already thinking about cancelling the show after its second season.

The Couric talk show premiered last September and is now in the final weeks of its first season. It was renewed months ago for a second season, which will start next September. But the rumor mill is already producing gossip that, barring a miraculous uptick in the ratings, the show won’t see a third season in fall 2014.

“The show was oversold at syndication and hasn’t lived up to expectations,” says one of the unnamed sources in the Post story. “Now everyone at ABC is gossiping that Katie will end up at CNN with Jeff [Zucker].”

Zucker, who once ran NBC Universal, was the producer of NBC’s “Today” show in its high-rated heyday with Couric. He was the founding producer of her afternoon talk show, but left at the beginning of this year to become president of CNN. Another executive producer, Michael Bass, reportedly followed him to CNN. The current executive producer is Rachel Miskowiec.

The stories about trouble at the talk show all suggest:

1) That the show’s lower-than-expected ratings are causing concern among the local stations around the country that agreed to air the show. For a syndicated show like “Katie,” this is where the greatest pressure to perform comes from. If the affiliates aren’t satisfied, then they’ll already be looking at replacement possibilities for fall 2014, which is why a third season for “Katie” might be in jeopardy.

2) That the revolving door in the show’s leadership is adding to the affiliates’ concerns. According to the stories about the show, the producer parade is giving the impression that the show lacks direction and consistency.

Our take: We suspect that the rumors are at least partially true, particularly where the ratings are concerned. Although ABC puts out press releases at least once a week about how “Katie” is beating the other afternoon talk shows, the truth is that the audience for daytime talk shows is so small these days that the talk shows — “Ellen DeGeneres,” “Steve Harvey,” “Maury Povich” and a handful of others — are dividing an ever-smaller pie.

It may well be true that “Katie” is beating some of the other shows — but that doesn’t mean her ratings are translating into profits for ABC. Moreover, we don’t know how much ABC is paying Couric, but her salary, along with the salaries they’re paying the show’s staff, means this is probably one of the more expensive daytime talk shows to produce. A show this expensive needs higher ratings in order to make more money and improve the profit picture.

On the other hand, we’re a little surprised by the timing of these stories. We can’t remember a flurry of stories about any other show that reported, so far in advance, that a show not yet in its second season will not have a third season. And the unnamed sources all taking shots at Couric and her show have an air of disgruntlement about them — like they have some kind of axe to grind about Couric, or possibly Jeff Zucker.

The bottom line: It’s all about the ratings: If Couric can grow them in her second season, then the rumors of turmoil will disappear. It’s that simple.

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

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