It’s the night shift for Katie Couric on rival network

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! TV personality Katie Couric made history Wednesday: She announced she’ll end her 15-year stint on NBC’s “Today Show” to take the anchor chair on “The CBS Evening News,” becoming the first woman to go solo on a broadcast network evening news telecast. The announcement, rumored for months, set off a renewed round of debate about whether the affable morning-show host is a good fit for the evening anchor chair. It also set the big three broadcast networks strategizing. NBC reportedly prepared to announce Meredith Vieira, who moonlights as a game-show host, as Couric’s replacement. ABC, working with a depleted bench, must decide whether to defend its No. 2 position in the evening news against Couric’s expected ratings bump or attempt to overthrow “Today” as morning TV’s No. 1 program. Couric made the announcement on Wednesday’s “Today” – the anniversary of her first day as co-host on the program. “After listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I’ve decided I’ll be leaving `Today’ at the end of May.” CBS issued its press release announcing Couric’s hiring as “Today” was airing. “Joining CBS is a unique opportunity that came at the right time for me,” Couric said in a statement issued by CBS. “I’m thrilled to become part of the rich tradition of CBS News and look forward to working with the many extraordinarily talented people there.” Warren Olney, host of KCRW-FM’s (89.9) “Which Way L.A.?” and a former TV news anchor, says Couric “absolutely” can succeed in her new job, but acknowledged that not all the strengths she brought to “Today” may translate to an evening news anchor’s chair. “She’s very talented, but she’s obviously a different person from the kind that have anchored in the past,” Olney says. “(CBS has) a decision to make that may well make the show conform to her. With the star system that prevails today, that makes a certain kind of sense. “It seems easier than making someone who has one kind of relationship with viewers assume a different persona. But never underestimate the potential of news executives to make some sort of colossal blunder.” Marc Berman, ratings analyst for Mediaweek, said he believes that blunder might have already been made. “I do not think bringing her in was a very good idea,” he said. “The evening news is older-skewing and more male-driven, about 60-40 male. She may bring in some women and some slightly younger viewers, but not very many. If that’s what they’re thinking, I don’t think this will help. The morning news has a different audience – it’s younger and more female. She fit very well there. This is a different arena.” Currently, “The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” is the highest-rated network newscast, averaging 9.8 million viewers each evening, a drop of 7 percent from last year. “ABC World News Tonight” averages 8.7 million viewers, down 9 percent. Since Bob Schieffer replaced Dan Rather on “The CBS Evening News,” his presence has brought 740,000 more viewers to the broadcast, though the program remains in third place with 7.7 million viewers. CBS’ newscast, however, draws only 2.4 million viewers age 25-54, the most desirable demographic for advertisers in news shows. Couric is expected to boost those ratings, and Schieffer himself has supported her getting the job. But many are curious whether bringing someone so celebrated for a lively personality that carried her smoothly through “Today’s” fluffier elements will translate on an evening newscast, where gravitas is the order of the day. Tom Brokaw easily made the transition from “Today” to evening-news anchor, but he was not described as “perky” in virtually every story mentioning him. “Having her shoehorned into the traditional anchor slot seems odd, but changing the show to fit her talents is also odd,” said Eric Deggans, media analyst for the St. Petersburg Times. “The stories she reports are often as much about her as they are about the news. If you bring her into this job and tell her to stop doing what she does, then why are you hiring her in the first place? On the other hand, it might be such a right-angle turn for the audience accustomed to traditional, just-the-facts-ma’am reporting as to create a kind of whiplash.” In the past, women haven’t lasted long in the anchor’s position. Barbara Walters co-anchored “The ABC Evening News” with Harry Reasoner from 1976 to 1978, and Connie Chung co-anchored CBS’ broadcast with Rather from 1993 to 1995. Elizabeth Vargas began co-anchoring ABC’s newscast in January with Bob Woodruff, who was severely injured while reporting in Iraq. Vargas has anchored the program since but will go on maternity leave later in the spring and, with growing concerns that Woodruff might not return to the broadcast, it’s expected that ABC might retool the show. “Good Morning America’s” Charlie Gibson is generally considered a perfect fit for ABC’s evening news and has filled in, but the network might want to keep him on the daytime show with an eye on challenging a vulnerable “Today.” About a year ago, “GMA” came within 10,000 viewers of taking over the No. 1 spot, but “Today” held on and since has widened its lead. Morning news shows are far more profitable for the networks than their evening counterparts. “That’s what makes watching this so much fun it’s like military strategy,” said Bob Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University’s Center for the Study of Popular Television. Regardless of how Couric ultimately fares, she initially will be under intense scrutiny from fans and skeptics alike, Thompson said. “She’s going to have every single person, from bloggers, TV critics and her peers, watching her every single move. They’ll be commenting on her clothes, her hair, her demeanor. That’s a tall order. She’s got to appear serious and yet it would be a terrible idea to overcompensate. You don’t want Katie Couric to deliver the news like Dan Rather or Walter Cronkite.” In the end, all those interviewed agreed, the impact on the ratings could be very small. “Network news is a long-term game, although few network executives think this way,” Deggans said. “Audiences change slowly, and loyalties take a very long time to build,” Thompson noted. “Two years ago, when Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather were still in the anchors’ chairs, NBC was No. 1, ABC was No. 2 and CBS was No. 3. Since then, there have been all these cataclysmic changes within the news divisions, and yet NBC is No. 1, ABC is No. 2 and CBS is No. 3. Viewer habits do not change overnight.” [email protected] (818) 713-3638last_img

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