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Daytime proved too challenging for Katie Couric

TelevisionTelevision IndustryKatie CouricMedia IndustryNBCToday (tv program)

Katie Couric's high-profile return to daytime television is coming to an end.

Couric and the Disney/ABC Television Group, which distributes her syndicated talk show, "Katie," said Thursday that it would end next summer after two seasons. The show airs in Los Angeles on the Walt Disney Co.-owned station, KABC-TV Channel 7.

Pulling the plug on the show was a joint decision, the two parties said.

"While production will continue on 'Katie' through June 2014, we've mutually agreed that there will not be a third season of the show," Couric and Disney/ABC said in a joint statement. 

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Ratings have been soft for the show, which launched in September 2012 amid fanfare. The program reunited Couric and her old boss from NBC's "Today" show, Jeff Zucker. In the 1990s, Zucker and Couric helped build "Today" into a financial juggernaut for NBC. But after only a few months on "Katie," Zucker decamped to accept the top job at Time Warner Inc.'s CNN.

"Katie" averaged about 2.2 million viewers an episode — a decent-sized audience but not enough to support the substantial costs of producing the hourlong show. Couric and the other producers have received about $20 million a year to deliver the show, on the high end for a daytime production.

The cancellation marked another disappointment for the celebrated journalist, who stepped down in 2011 as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" after a less-than-successful five-year run. Her replacement, Scott Pelley, has managed to grow the ratings for CBS' evening newscast. 

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Disney had been hoping that Couric could become the next Oprah Winfrey. The company also carved out a position for Couric within the ABC News division, but Couric's contributions were far fewer than anticipated.

Her daytime talk show became a sore point for the television stations that agreed to pay hefty fees to license it. Stations had been under contract to broadcast the show through next summer.

In the end, the decision to end the show was based on economics, according to people close to the production.

The handwriting has been on the wall particularly since last month, when Yahoo Inc. hired Couric, 56, as its "global anchor." The Internet company has been looking to boost its credentials as a news organization. When Couric accepted the Yahoo assignment she resigned her position within ABC News.

"We're very proud of everyone's contributions to making Katie the #1 new syndicated talk show of 2012-2013, and we look forward to the rest of the season," Couric and Disney said in the joint statement.

meg.james@latimes.com 

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