Now that Jeff Zucker’s new gig as CNN Worldwide President is official, the question mark now looms over how his exit as executive producer and show runner of Katie Couric’s daytime talker will affect the show.
Couric’s former “Today” boss had been at the wheel of the show since its start -- with his right-hands, co-executive producers Michael Bass and Kathy Samuels. With Zucker’s exit nearing, Couric and the folks behind the show, distributor Disney-ABC Domestic Television, have been thumbing through potential successors.
“We wish Jeff the very best as he embarks on his new venture,” said Janice Marinelli, president of Disney-ABC Domestic Television, in a statement. “He brought his wealth of experience, knowledge and vision to the creation and development of ‘Katie.’”
An announcement on who will be named to succeed Zucker is expected to be made in the next few weeks, allowing time for adjustment. Zucker will make his exit from the show in mid-January.
“I’m very excited that Jeff has such a wonderful opportunity at CNN and equally excited for CNN,” Couric said Thursday in a statement. “I’m also grateful that Jeff has been so instrumental in getting our show off to such a strong start and look forward to working with the fantastic staff we’ve assembled and building on the strong foundation we’ve created.”
What was billed as a topical show quickly drew criticism for pandering -- the first show featured Jessica Simpson talking about her post-baby body; a later show would be devoted to hair. While the highly promoted freshman talker with equally high expectations found itself outranking any new talk show, its middling numbers were hardly enough to beat Ellen DeGeneres or Rachael Ray in the ratings race.
Zucker, who expressed his desire to make CNN more “relevant, vibrant and exciting,” might find himself leaving “Katie” on a bit of a high note.
The talker hit new highs in household ratings and total viewers for the week of Nov. 12. “Katie” averaged a 2.1 rating among households and 2.7 million viewers each day -- up 15% from the previous week. The uptick helped her outpace her biggest new competitor, Steve Harvey, by nearly 38% in viewers.