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It’s Official: ABC Signs Couric to Syndie Deal

In new role, anchor will look to take on afternoon daypart
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After months of rampant speculation, ABC on Monday made it official, announcing it has signed Katie Couric to a multiyear deal to host and produce a nationally syndicated talk show.

The as-yet-unnamed program will be distributed by Disney/ABC Domestic Television and will premiere in September 2012.

In addition to hosting the new syndicated program, Couric will join the ABC News team, contributing to all programs and platforms. She’ll begin making appearances on ABC as early as this summer.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Couric is believed to have secured an ownership stake in the new venture. While early chatter had ABC stations looking to air the new show at 4 p.m.—the slot vacated by the Oprah Winfrey Show—early clearances at the eight ABC-owned stations have settled on the 3 p.m. slot.

Those ABC stations serve New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh/Durham, N.C., and Fresno, Calif., which together represent 23 percent of the nation’s TV households.

Former NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker is also a partner in the new Couric talk show. Along with taking a financial stake in the project, Zucker will serve as executive producer of the Couric show, the role he held at Today from 1992-2001.

During Zucker’s stewardship, Today co-anchors Couric and Matt Lauer ruled the airwaves, dominating TV’s morning hours.

Couric put in five years behind the CBS Evening News anchor desk, and while network executives hoped she’d be able to transfer the Today magic to CBS, the ratings never really took off. She signed off for the last time on May 19.

In her final season at CBS, Couric averaged 5.97 million viewers per night, according to Nielsen. Through May 22, NBC has the lead over the Big Three newscasts, with an average nightly draw of 9.1 million viewers. ABC placed second with 8.02 million.

If nothing else, Couric’s CBS tenure will be remembered for the series of interviews she conducted in 2008 with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The interviews revealed the candidate from Alaska to be deeply confused about a number of issues, geopolitics being perhaps the most noteworthy of these.

In a segment that aired on CBS on Sept. 30, 2008, Palin noted that whenever [Russian president Vladimir] Putin “rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where . . . where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border.”

The interview was seen as an absolute disaster for Palin and her running mate, Arizona Senator John McCain.