Katie Couric's new syndicated daytime talk show doesn't premiere until September 2012, but she's already got her head in the game. When asked to describe what her program would have looked like had it been up and running the day cyber-cheating congressman Anthony Weiner admitted to his online indiscretions, she only takes a moment to come up with a provocative topic. "I would have done an hour on why powerful men engage in risky behavior and how prevalent sending erotic photos is on the Internet. Is it a generational thing?"
With The Oprah Winfrey Show gone, Couric thinks she can fill the gap for an audience that wants a few nutritious calories in its daytime viewing. "There are a lot of smart people working at home and they are craving smart conversation," says Couric, who recently hit the best-seller list with her book The Best Advice I Ever Got. "It doesn't have to be Charlie Rose, whom I love but appeals [only] to certain viewers. It can be accessible."
Couric spent the last five years as anchor of the CBS Evening News, where she had trouble moving the ratings needle but won journalistic awards and scored several news-making coups, including a revealing 2008 interview with Sarah Palin that still haunts the presidential aspirant.
Her still-untitled talk show will bring her closer to the more wide-ranging role she had for 15 years as coanchor of NBC's Today. She's even reuniting with former Today executive producer Jeff Zucker, a partner in the new show. "He knows the sweet spot of when people are talking about a particular subject," Couric says. "He knows me really well and knows what my strengths are."
Couric's new deal also gives her a role at ABC News. People familiar with the thinking in the department say she'll eventually inherit the high-profile interviews and assignments that had been traditionally handled by Barbara Walters. "You'll see her do Oscar specials and big interviews," says one news producer who has worked with Couric. "She'll be the new Barbara Walters and fit in just fine."
Couric's one-hour daytime show will air mostly on ABC affiliates in the window between 3 and 5pm, sounding the alarm for soap fans already upset over the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live. There are fears that General Hospital will also face the ax to make room for Couric. But the soap, which airs at 3pm in many markets, could survive in an earlier hour,especially if one of ABC's upcoming new daytime shows The Chew and The Revolution, doesn't cut it. Stations could also opt to run Couric instead of a 4pm newscast. So don't worry, GH fans — at least not yet.