Tuesday, June 06, 2006

KATIE COURIC MAKES THE WRONG MOVE

Katie Couric ended her 15-year run on the Today Show last week and will never have the same level of success. It is understandable that she wants new challenges, but bottom line she is taking the wrong job at the wrong network at the wrong time.

The facts are that only three women have ever tried to become regular network weeknight news anchors and all have had the same experiences: the ratings temporarily rise slightly out of curiosity, then after a few months the viewership levels drop to below what the show was getting. Here's the harsh reality: female viewers tune out female anchors. Am I saying that female viewers want to watch male anchors? That's what the ratiangs show. So this is the wrong job for Couric. Especially since she is known for her perky girl-next-door image, which is not what viewers want to see delivering their news at night.

And if you have ever seen her on Dateline or subbing on the NBC Evening News or even trying to look serious on her morning show you know that she is just wrong for the job. When Katie tries to get serious she scrunches up her eyebrows and looks pained to the point of constipated. Hasn't anyone told her that she is just the wrong person for the job? I guess when you make $15 million a year people in the business want to kiss up to her and not tell her the truth.

She is also headed to the wrong network. CBS is the stodgy network of Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, even Andy Rooney. If Meredith Vieira couldn't survive working there, how will Katie? Couric is about the opposite of the CBS image. That may be why they want to bring her in, but she just isn't going to fit.

This is also the wrong time for a woman to attempt to be a solo anchor. Elizabeth Vargas just failed in a similar role at ABC, seeing viewers leave to the point that shortly before she left the ABC news dropped to third place for the first time in years. And with the war going on, viewers want to see a strong, fatherly male figure deliver the harsh results of combat. That is why Bob Schieffer's numbers have been growing--he's serious, old and trustworthy. How can the same network drop him for his TV opposite?

Prediction: The CBS news numbers will go up for a few months when Couric starts in the fall. Then 3 to 6 months in the numbers will drop and by late spring Couric will be struggling. They'll keep her in the job just because she is a "star" and an investment, but if CBS drops to third place with Couric in the anchor seat changes will occur. They will first fire the producer and bring in some new sets (this is standard TV operation--when numbers go down get rid of the producers or change the window dressing) but if the network stays in third place Couric may be replaced by the end of her second year.

Katie Couric is a sweet person who should have kept her morning job. She wants to be a trailblazer but needs to be told by someone outside her New York/Los Angeles media circles that she has made a bad choice. It will just take a year or two for the network to figure it out and even then they won't blame Katie. But Couric is the problem and not the solution.

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