Katie Couric joins ABC News, announces plans for a daytime talk show
Couric and the Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC television network on Monday announced a comprehensive deal that includes a high-profile role for Couric within the ABC News division and, beginning next year, the launch of a syndicated daytime talk show.
Couric will produce the talk show along with her former "Today" show executive producer, former NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker. The pair spent more than a decade together building NBC's morning program into a ratings and profit juggernaut.
The move -- which had been expected -- affords Couric, 54, the same hallowed afternoon real estate that Oprah Winfrey is vacating, as well as the ability to continue to work as one of television's most recognizable journalists.
“I’m very happy to be returning to the network where I began my career as a desk assistant in 1979. It is tremendously exciting to have the creative freedom to develop my own show," said Couric in a statement. "I can’t wait to be part of this incredibly talented, visionary team.”
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger and ABC News President Ben Sherwood were interested in landing Couric to help strengthen the network's news bench, particularly as the network's queen of the interview, Barbara Walters, steps back a bit.
Not only that, but also ABC's daytime schedule -- once a powerhouse -- has become problematic with the loss of Winfrey and, soon, two of its long-running soap operas, "One Life to Live" and "All My Children."
Couric's team had expected a spirited bidding war for a Couric-helmed talk show. But in the end it was ABC that expressed the most interest, and the network provided Couric with that extra cushion -- a plum role within its news division. The deal, which had been in the works for several weeks, was announced on the day that Couric's five-year contract with CBS officially ended.
Couric, whose prominence often overshadowed her duties on "CBS Evening News," has said that the 22-minute evening news format didn't play to her strengths or give her the room she needed to flash her high-wattage and playful personality.
-- Meg James
Photo: Katie Couric. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press