It's a rumor that has been reported for a long time but for the first time, it's very close to being official. Katie Couric is joining Yahoo! as a talk show host. Because of this new venture, Couric has decided to leave ABC News where she did specials, ratings stunts on "GMA", high profile interviews and helped with election coverage.
Due to the time constraints of ABC News as well as her own time constraints with her daytime talk show, there wasn't a lot of room for Ms. Couric to get involved with "World News" and/or "GMA". Despite this move, Couric will still continue her daytime talk show which is under a separate part of her ABC deal with the daytime/syndication division. But speculation is circulating that around the end of December, ABC will ending up cancelling her show due to lackluster ratings which don't live up to the costs of the show.
There are a lot of implications and questions involving this deal:
- This is the first time, from what I recall, that a prominent TV personality such as Couric is leaving the comfort of television for the uncertainty of the internet in her prime. Couric had already been doing some work for Yahoo! but it was through ABC, which has a partnership with Yahoo! to produce original content. Is this the start of a shift in which online companies compete just as hard for famous personalities as TV companies?
- Will we still see Couric on ABC? Yahoo and ABC News are still partners so it's very likely that we'll still see some of Couric's interviews spotlighted on ABC programming. If a big story breaks and Couric gets an interview scoop, I'm sure parts of the interview will play on "GMA" first and then eventually get released on Yahoo.com with major promotion from ABC.
- Could Couric still go to CNN or another TV network? Very unlikely. It's definitely possible as long as Yahoo! approves of it, but Yahoo! is her chief employer now and I'm not sure if Yahoo! wants anything getting in the way of the projects she's going to be working on for the website. Also, when it comes to CNN, rumor has it that there's bad blood between Zucker and Couric after Zucker left Couric hanging to join CNN.
- Katie Couric has worked for basically every single TV network (CBS Evening News, NBC Today, ABC's "Katie", CNN DC Correspondent) with the exception of FOX, and I'm guessing with this move, she's now aiming to work for every single major website possible, lol. Because of the fact that she's been able to work for every single network possible, it's going to get harder and harder for her to find new challenges in the industry if this Yahoo! venture doesn't work out for the long run.
- What does this deal mean for ABC News and Yahoo? This deal probably worked out in one of two ways:
- The first way: ABC can't afford to spend anymore on "Katie" because of it's ratings problem. But ABC still wants to keep Katie in the fray so that she can eventually replace Barbara on "The View". ABC doesn't have a cable sibling that she can fit into (Fusion is for young people, Katie's not young) and Yahoo!, a good friend and partner of ABC's, is looking for media content. ABC lets Katie off the hook easily from her news obligations to spend the next year working for Yahoo! while she waits for Barbara to leave. ABC will then partner up with Yahoo! next year to bring Katie to "The View" while also making Yahoo!, the official digital partner of "The View".
- The second way: The ABC/Yahoo deal is set to expire soon and this is Yahoo's way of saying that it's time to go their separate ways. Yahoo! is willing to do whatever it takes to become a major content producer even if it means stabbing ABC in the back and competitively bidding higher for one of their prized gems. Under the Mayer regime, Yahoo! has made content deals with CNBC and NBCSN so could this be the beginning of Yahoo!'s process of leaving ABC News and "GMA" for NBC News and "Today"?
- Which is more likely? I would go with the first option. Couric was stuck in an ironclad deal with ABC which I'm sure ABC wasn't going to let go of easily if it wasn't with for the fact that Yahoo! is such a close partner in crime.
- In the case that Yahoo! does leave ABC at the altar, where does ABC go? AOL and Facebook are two of the top options which come to mind. AOL's homepage still gets major views and if all or most of their news stories were redirected to ABC News' homepage, ABC wouldn't miss Yahoo! that much. Not to mention, HuffPo is a major force among the younger crowd and ABC News' infrastructure would provide better resources for HuffPo and HuffPoLive. Facebook would also be a great move if they pinned ABC News' stories and videos (which are relevant to what FB users' friends are discussing) to their users' timelines. For example, if an FB user on my TL is discussing Obamacare and near the post, there is an explainer about Obamacare from ABC News, I'm more inclined to click on it.
- Who's next to move from TV to online if Katie is successful? If Katie can successfully parlay her star power into a great online interview show and if Katie becomes influential enough to take away some news scoops from the big networks, then expect Matt Lauer to be next in line. If NBC can't find a spot for him at their network past 2015, expect a bidding war for his services between Yahoo!, CNN and possibly Google/YouTube.
- I doubt Yahoo! or any other internet content producers will be able to take on cable news in a 24/7 format but on demand series-es with occasional live broadcasts which are filled with occasional scoops can easily beat CNN, MSNBC, AJAM, Fusion in the ratings, especially if they're hosted by well known journalists such as Matt Lauer and Katie Couric.
- For example, if Couric was at Yahoo! during the Syria mini-crisis from earlier this year and got the first exclusive interview with Bashir Al-Assad paired together with a live analysis show featuring experts on Syria, I'm sure the average total views on those videos that day would've topped CNN, MSNBC, AJAM, Fusion and their average ratings.