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Disney Signs Couric to Daytime Talk Show After Oprah Departs

Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ABC signed former CBS News anchor Katie Couric to produce and host an afternoon talk show, filling a void in the schedule created by Oprah Winfrey’s departure from broadcast TV.

The yet-to-be-named show will begin in September 2012, Burbank, California-based Disney said today in a statement. Couric will also join ABC News, anchoring specials, doing interviews and participating in event coverage.

Many of Disney’s company-owned ABC stations carried Winfrey’s daily talk show in cities including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. While the show was distributed by CBS Corp. (CBS), Disney will have to fill the void in those areas and is in a position to market Couric to other stations that are now Oprah-less.

“Katie Couric is one of television’s iconic figures and we are thrilled to have forged such an exciting partnership with her,” Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group and co-chair of Disney Media Networks, said in the statement.

Couric, 54, left CBS News after five years and declining ratings. She will share in the talk show’s revenue, two people with knowledge of the deal said last month.

Jeff Zucker, former head of NBC Universal, will be executive producer of the new program. He oversaw NBC’s “Today” show, where Couric was co-anchor from 1991 to 2006.

Photographer: Todd Heisler/The New York Times via Redux

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC signed former CBS News anchor Katie Couric to produce and host an afternoon talk show, filling a void in the schedule created by Oprah Winfrey’s departure from broadcast TV. Close

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Photographer: Todd Heisler/The New York Times via Redux

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC signed former CBS News anchor Katie Couric to produce and host an afternoon talk show, filling a void in the schedule created by Oprah Winfrey’s departure from broadcast TV.

The talk show will cost $40 million to produce, a person with knowledge of the arrangement said last month. The funds would be an advance against future earnings the venture would share, said the person, who declined to be identified because the terms aren’t public.

Testing Waters

ABC waited until Couric’s contract with CBS expired to sign a deal, according to one person with knowledge of the negotiations. New York-based CBS had the right to match any offer while Couric was still under contract.

Couric held discussions with ABC, NBC and CNN. CBS contemplated asking her back at less than her $15 million-a-year salary and to appear on specials and other shows instead of anchoring the evening news.

CBS, based in New York, named “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley to succeed Couric. The “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” begins tonight, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager and President David Rhodes said on May 3.

Ratings at “CBS Evening News” declined during Couric’s tenure, falling to an all-time low of 4.89 million total viewers in week of Aug. 24, 2010, according to TVNewser. In the current season, Couric is in third place, averaging 5.97 million viewers a night as of May 22, according to data from Nielsen Co. NBC leads the nightly newscasts with 9.1 million viewers and ABC is second with 8.02 million.

Disney, owner of theme parks and ESPN, added 20 cents to $39.58 at 1:13 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, and had risen 5 percent this year before today. CBS, controlled by Sumner Redstone, fell 41 cents to $26.79. The shares gained 43 percent year-to-date.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ronald Grover in Los Angeles at rgrover5@bloomberg.net; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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