Katie Couric will be filling in on Good Morning America. (ABC/via Getty Images )
Katie Couric, the former sweetheart of NBC News’s “Today” show, is going to co-anchor ABC News’s “Good Morning America” next week, which will most likely nuke “Today’s” more than 16-year run as the most-watched morning infotainment-show.
“Who can we get to guest-host?” lifestyle anchor Lara Spencer faux-wondered on “GMA” Thursday morning as she and co-anchor Robin Roberts pretended to ruminate on who might fill in next week while Roberts is on vacation.
“We gotta find someone who has news chops, someone who can handle a tough show like this,” Spencer said.
“Maybe someone’s who’s done this before?” Roberts suggested.
“Maybe someone, who, I don’t know — she should be perky . . .” Spencer insisted.
“Any guesses?” Roberts asked viewers.
Without waiting to hear our answer, Roberts roared, “KATIE!” as giant photos of Couric appeared on-screen.
Almost simultaneously, Couric began to prattle happily on Twitter about her upcoming role in ending the longest winning streak in TV history:
●“Rise + shine! Excited to be back on morning TV next wk, guest hosting @GMA w/ @GStephanopoulos. #KatieOnGMA.”
●“Serious pressure filling in for the fab @RobinRoberts! #KatieOnGMA”
●“Thanks for all the kind words about my guest gig on @GMA! I’ll be keeping Robin’s seat warm next week — Can’t wait, George! #KatieOnGMA”
Staffers at “Today” were shocked and awed by the announcement of Katie’s guest gig in a non-sweeps week, Fox News reported.
That in itself would be shocking, given that:
1) It’s about time for ABC parent Disney — which signed Katie last June to star in a syndicated daytime talk show — to start warming up the daytime crowd for the show’s fall launch.
2) It’s no secret that Roberts was scheduled to go on vacation next week. (Anchor George Stephanopoulos took his vacation last week.)
3) In January, ABC News President Ben Sherwood told a ballroom full of The Reporters Who Cover Television that his goal was to “topple” the “Today” show, ending the viselike grip it has had in the morning ratings race for “10 billion weeks.”
Sherwood was not over-promising: “GMA” has been gaining viewers, while “Today’s” ratings have slid. Viewers aren’t taking to “Today’s” co-anchor (and former news reader) Ann Curry the way they did to the show’s former co-anchor, Meredith Vieira, who left in the summer, and to Couric before her. Meanwhile, NBC News is taking forever to close a deal with much-liked “Today” anchor Matt Lauer to remain with the show. Some sources, and news reports, say Curry’s presence is a sticking point.
“GMA” just enjoyed its closest first-quarter numbers relative to “Today” in 17 years. Last week, “GMA” came in about 140,000 viewers shy of “Today.”
The last time “GMA” beat “Today” for a week was in December 1995.
Once, seven years ago, “GMA” got real close, but “Today” outmaneuvered the ABC show by pulling some ratings hanky-panky to eke out the win, the New York Times noted Thursday.
What “Today” did was to put all its national ads in the higher-rated first hour, and none in the lower-rated second hour. Nielsen rates only time slots that have national ads, so “Today’s” second-hour ratings for that week in 1995 are lost to history. (NBC does similar things to massage ratings for its Olympics coverage. And, in fairness, it’s not the only network that plays these kind of ratings games.)
But if “Today” tries to out-finesse “GMA” next week, as it did seven years ago, it’ll be tangling with the master: Longtime “Today” exec producer Jeff Zucker is now Katie’s talk-show exec producer.
Thursday may have given “Today” a glimpse as to what it will be like next week. Lauer landed an interview with America’s favorite TV bad boy, Charlie Sheen, about the actor’s very public meltdown; his upcoming FX series, “Anger Management”; and how he wishes “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre and the studio had “taken better care of the child left behind.”
These days, a Sheen appearance usually gets picked up and picked apart in the press. On Thursday, reporters barely noticed, because all the talk was of Katie.
Ironically, in addition to battling her former home show, Katie will also compete next week for viewers with Oprah Winfrey — the woman she’s trying to replace as queen of daytime talk TV. Winfrey is scheduled to appear Monday on CBS’s morning infotainment show “CBS This Morning,” co-anchored by her BFF Gayle King.
TLC, the network that brings you series about hoarders and obsessive coupon clippers, has bought a new competition series about rabid “crafters,” who are part of a $30 billion industry in this country.