Katie's Gone: So Who Replaces Oprah Now?

The syndicated version of Katie Couric's talk show will be gone by the middle of 2014 -- after two years on the air. So it's back to the original syndicated afternoon talk show drawing board, with that perennial question:  Who will replace Oprah Winfrey?

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.

3 comments about "Katie's Gone: So Who Replaces Oprah Now?".
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  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 3, 2014 at 1:58 p.m.

    My vote would be the MediaPost gang. You certainly would give people something to talk about.

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 3, 2014 at 2:06 p.m.

    It's possible there won't be another Oprah. There really wasn't an Oprah before Oprah, not even Donahue, so why should there be one now that she's long gone? Anyway, media are too fragmented for anyone to dominate again. Too many channels on too many screens.

  3. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, January 3, 2014 at 3:36 p.m.

    There's was never any doubt in my mind that the former cheerleader would never come close to replicating Oprah's aura of gravitas. However, I must admit that I was wrong about Michael Strahan when he replaced Regis.

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