Katie's Gone: So Who Replaces Oprah Now?
When Katie Couric agreed to do a syndication talk show with longtime friend/executive Jeff Zucker in the executive producer/creator role over two years ago, critics built up ABC Syndication’s “Katie" as the second coming (the first being Oprah Winfrey).
Syndicated talk shows format continues to be the magnet for big time celebrity/actor/newscaster looking for that big pay day. How much? Typically $20 million a year from these Monday to Friday efforts is a starting point for big talent. It is any wonder Ricki Lake tried to come back to syndication TV talk?
Who has replaced Oprah? In reality, no one. CBS Television Distribution “Dr. Phil” regularly leads -- now averaging 4.1 million viewers. But Warner Bros. Brand Networks’ “Ellen DeGeneres” and Disney-ABC’s “Live with Kelly & Michael” are just behind, at around 3.7 million viewers each. Overall, there is no dominant player as with Oprah Winfrey.Katie Couric came in with big brand awareness and big expectation -- this right after her mediocre ratings performance for several years being the face of “The CBS Evening News.” To be fair, we have seen other TV news personalities with big syndication expectations fail to move the needle, including NBC’s “Today”’s Jane Pauley.
Bluntly, “Katie” was nowhere near dominating in the category. Her ratings drifted lower this season -- now about around 2.2 million viewers from 2.4 million a year ago, looking at data from Sept. 9 to Dec. 8, in sixth place overall when looking at all syndicated talk shows.
For most talk shows, a 2.2 million viewer level may not seem that bad. But considering her big fee for doing a syndication show, as well as a rare license fee TV stations needed to pay for the talker, it was kind of a no-brainer that “Katie” couldn’t continue.
Syndication talk can tend to skew older in the afternoon. But “Katie” was in a different area code: Among 12 syndicated talk shows, “Katie” had the highest media age of viewers -- 61.4 years old -- and was the only talk show with a 60-plus-year-old median age.
All this amounted to syndication math that became nothing to talk about.