How 'Katie's' Cancellation Changes the Talk Show Landscape

Clockwise, from top left: Queen Latifah, Arsenio Hall, Katie Couric and Kris Jenner
Clockwise, from top left: Queen Latifah, Arsenio Hall, Katie Couric and Kris Jenner
 Charles Sykes/Invision/AP; Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP; AP Photo/Richard Drew; Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

In 2011, to ensure that TV stations would air Katie Couric's pricey new syndicated chat show, ABC turned over to them a choice time period, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Now Katie is ending after only two seasons, but stations are keeping the hour -- opening prime slots for other syndicated shows jockeying for the best position on the fall schedule.

The biggest beneficiary could be Meredith Vieira, whose new daily show will premiere in September. Produced and distributed by NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution and anchored on NBC-owned stations in the biggest markets, Vieira's show quickly was sold in more than 60 percent of the U.S. But it still needs to find slots in smaller markets.

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"Most stations already believed [Katie] was not going to return and have made decisions and acquired new product or rescheduled product they already have," says Bill Carroll, vp/director of programing at Katz TV Group. But Carroll notes that it's still unclear what ABC stations, including the network-owned outlets, will put in Katie's place, presenting an opportunity for Vieira and others.

The jockeying comes at crunch time for TV syndicators looking to make deals before the annual NATPE market Jan. 27 to 29 in Miami. Besides Meredith, set for launch this fall are the Warner Bros.-produced multicultural talker The Real (after a summer test run on Fox stations) and Debmar-Mercury's Celebrity Name Game, hosted by Craig Ferguson, on Tribune stations. Among this season's freshman class, The Queen Latifah Show and The Arsenio Hall Show have shown enough ratings promise that they likely will return; and Bethenny, after a slow start, might be attracting enough females in the 25-to-54 demo to merit a second season.

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On the other hand, Hot Bench, developed by Judge Judy star Judy Sheindlin around a panel of judges, hasn't found big-city anchor stations, so CBS TV Distribution is keeping it in the wings. Sources say it's also "wait until next year" for a trio of reality crime strips: Warner Bros.' True Crime Daily, CBS' Crimesider (a spinoff of a 48 Hours segment) and a Debmar-Mercury project featuring Star Jones and three co-hosts debating legal issues. All these now are aiming for fall 2015.

Conspicuously missing in all the schedule maneuvering is Kris. The talk show hosted by Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner had a summer test run on Fox stations with mixed results. Now sources say Kris isn't likely to launch this fall -- if ever.

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