Will Katie Couric's New Talk Show Mean the Death of 'General Hospital'?

39 REP Katie Couric H
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ABC has cleared the way for "Katie" to air in more than 60 percent of U.S. homes, sparking rumors that the long-time soap may be pulled from the lineup.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

Disney/ABC announced Oct. 24 that it has already cleared Katie Couric's syndicated Katie to air in more than 60 percent of U.S. homes when it bows in fall 2012, fueling speculation about the future of the soap that has aired at 3 p.m. in most markets since 1963.

ABC, which in September drew the ire of soap fans by replacing the long-running All My Children with the foodie chat show The Chew and jettisoning One Life to Live to the web, likely won't decide the fate of its last remaining soap until the spring. But General Hospital clearly is under the microscope. The soap will "compete based on ratings and costs" with other offerings, says a network rep.

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Chew is off to a mediocre start, luring 1.9 million total viewers daily in its third week -- well below the 2.4 million that All My Children drew a year ago. But Chew, as well as The Revolution, a lifestyle strip that will launch in January, costs much less to produce than a soap. And while GH still averages 2.43 million viewers, that's down from 2.47 million last year and off 20 percent this season among females 18-to-49.

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"There's no extra reward based on how passionate people are about a show, especially when it might not be the right audience," says Sam Ford, an academic and co-editor of the book The Survival of Soap Opera.

Sources say Katie is generating lower syndication fees than Disney had hoped but still will pull in more than $10,000 a week in such markets as Atlanta, Detroit and Dallas. Disney-owned stations in big markets will each pony up nearly $50,000 a week, helping to produce about $60 million annually and giving networks strong incentives to air the show in plum time slots -- just like the one that GH occupies.