Jeff Zucker could not have asked for better timing — on the morning his appointment as president of CNN Worldwide was announced, the latest ratings for his syndicated show Katie showed the talker hitting all-time highs. For the week of November 12, Katie Couric‘s daytime talk show drew a 2.1 household rating and 2.7 million viewers, its best weekly numbers ever and up 17% week-to-week in both categories. In women 25-54 (1.1 rating), Katie tied its best-ever weekly rating. Zucker and Couric co-own the show, on which Zucker has served as executive producer/showrunner. “I’m very excited that Jeff has such a wonderful opportunity at CNN and equally excited for CNN,” Couric said today. “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.”
That staff includes Zucker’s lieutenants on the show: co-executive producers Michael Bass and Kathy Samuels. In anticipation of Zucker’s exit, Zucker, Couric and the company behind Katie, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, have been quietly meeting with potential candidates to succeed Zucker at the helm of the show. Now that Zucker’s departure is certain, the search is expected to pick up steam and the expectation is to have someone in place by the end of the year, providing a smooth transition as Zucker is slated to leave the show in early January.
After a bumpy start, Katie has stabilized and gradually gained ground to widen its margin as the No. 1 new syndicated talk show. The long-drawn-out talks between CNN and Zucker, who emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Jim Walton the moment the CNN chief announced his departure in late July, allowed him to lead the show to a comfortable position and work on a succession plan, which was important for him as Zucker has a major financial interest in Katie (some sources indicate he is poised to pocket $8 million from the $20 million guarantee to Couric and him). Katie already has a two-year deal with the ABC stations, so its future was never in peril, but having solid ratings helps appease station concerns. “We wish Jeff the very best as he embarks on his new venture,” said Janice Marinelli, President, Disney-ABC Domestic Television. “He brought his wealth of experience, knowledge and vision to the creation and development of Katie. We are so proud of Katie, which is the No. 1 new syndicated show of the year. We thank Jeff for his leadership and contributions and wish him great success in his new role of President of CNN Worldwide.”