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Katie Couric joins post-Oprah daytime cast

Katie Couric.

Katie Couric tries out the daytime talk show circuit starting today, amid some buzz that she could be the host who fills the void left by Oprah Winfrey's departure.

That could be a tough order, though: Couric is just part of a long parade of hopefuls who are joining "Dr. Oz," "Dr. Phil," Ellen Degeneres, Anderson Cooper, Wendy Williams, Maury Povich, Jerry Springer and the rest of TV's already-crowded dayside gang.

As of today, you can add "Katie" to the list, as well as Steve Harvey, the comedian and sitcom star. Ricki Lake, who was only 24 when she first broke into the talk show business in the 1990s, is vying to make a comeback at the age of 43. And the list of daytime-talk hopefuls goes on, including former "Survivor" host Jeff Probst, and British import Trisha Goddard. She will be refereeing a Maury Povich-style conflict show.

There are more big syndicated talk shows being launched this fall than in the last decade, says Alex Ben Block, senior editor at The Hollywood Reporter. The costliest splash, however, is focused on Couric, the ex-host of NBC's "Today" show and former anchor of the "CBS Evening News." Block says ABC is pulling out all the stops, giving her a solid time period, strong promotion and an expensive production budget. "Now," he says, "she has to deliver." That means the pressure is on to capture the lion's share of the kind of household decision-makers advertisers covet: 25- to 54-year-old women, over whom Oprah Winfrey once reigned supreme.

Competition in the daytime talk-show arena is more ferocious than ever, according to Block. "If even two out of the five or six (shows) that are launching can be here three years from now, that would be extraordinary," he adds.  

Couric struggled to live up to expectations when she took over as the lead anchor at CBS, and the bar might be set at an unrealistic level again, says Alec Shankman, head of alternative programming at Hollywood's Kaplan-Stahler Agency. "If you raise everyone's expectations too high," he explains, "you only have room left for disappointment." That's especially true in a market that's increasingly fragmented by cable-TV and the Internet. Block is even more blunt, noting that "even Oprah could no longer get an Oprah-sized audience."

Couric appeared in a YouTube video pitching show tickets, and let it be known that she won't be doing things the Oprah way -- at least not for now. "You can be part of the studio audience," she says in the clip. Then, in a not-so-veiled a reference to Winfrey's legendary giveaways, she adds, "but don't expect to get any free cars just yet."

Since Oprah left the network airwaves more than a year ago, no host has convincingly filled her ratings shoes. But today one of the biggest names makes her go of it -- Katie Couric's new show debuts. Katie joins a long list of new contenders hoping to make a mark amid the existing crowd: Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Ellen.

Here's Marketplace's Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: Besides "Katie," there's Steve Harvey, Ricki Lake's return -- and the list goes on.

Alex Ben Block: There's actually more big new syndicated talk shows launching this fall than in at least a decade.

Alex Ben Block is senior editor at the Hollywood Reporter. He says Couric is getting the most expensive splash.

Block: ABC's giving her the best time period, the most promotion, the budget for the production is extraordinary. Now, she has to deliver.

By that, he means, capture the lion's share of the household decision-makers advertisers covet -- 25 to 54 year old women, over whom Oprah reigned supreme. At Hollywood's Kaplan-Stahler agency, Alec Shankman says it may be an unrealistic bar.

Alec Shankman: If you raise everyone's expectations too high, you only have room left for disappointment, and in this case, they could be setting themselves up for some disappointment.

Especially when even Oprah would have trouble getting an Oprah-sized audience, in a market fragmented by cable TV and the Internet.

On YouTube, pitching show tickets, Couric let it be known she won't be doing things the Oprah way.

Katie Couric: You can be part of the studio audience, but don't expect to get any free cars just yet.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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