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Couric Throws NBC Into 'Storm Watch'

Thursday, 26 February 2004 12:00 AM

A Page One story in this week’s issue of the respected Broadcasting & Cable magazine features a most unflattering photo of Couric with the blazing headline “Storm Watch at Today.”

The magazine confirms what insiders have been revealing for months: Ratings for “Today,” NBC’s most profitable program, are stagnating, outpaced by growth at ABC’s "Good Morning America" and CBS’s once-moribund "The Early Show," not to mention the booming popularity of FNC’s "Fox and Friends" on cable.

Couric, the Peacock network’s princess, is blaming everyone but herself. One NBC insider told B&C, “The fear is that what’s happening at Today is the beginning of all the wheels coming off.”

And these are big wheels. The magazine says “the stakes are huge” because "Today" generates almost $500 million in revenue for NBC News, the division's fattest cash cow.

The problems of Couric and "Today" are not new to media insiders. B&C’s report has just made public what many have already known: She is fast becoming the new Rosie O’Donnell, a media darling whose reputation as a “queen of nice” masks a behind-the-scenes nastiness that threatens to destroy her colleagues and her program.

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Now Broadcasting & Cable backs up our source’s observation that if you get in her way, Couric “can be vicious and stomp you out like a bug.”

In greatest danger of being stomped, according to the mag: executive producer Tom Touchet.

“Some inside the network say Katie Couric is leading the charge against Touchet. Remember, she was none too pleased with his predecessor, Jonathan Wald. Today’s $13 million-a-year superdiva was widely viewed as orchestrating Wald's demise after 17 months on the job. That's just about as long as Touchet has been there,” reports B&C.

NBC News President Neal Shapiro continues to deny friction between Couric and Touchet.

Couric’s troubles and her program’s stagnant ratings seem to mirror what happened with Bryant Gumbel, who once was the show’s lead host. Over time, Couric has grown increasingly abrasive in interviews with ideological foes.

“Today,” though still top rated in its time slot, has recently lost major scoops and ratings to “Good Morning America.” For example, Pete Rose went to "GMA" with his story. Mel Gibson, Bush administration figures, even Howard Dean now bypass the notoriously biased Couric and tell their stories on ABC or on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”

NBC’s morning show is no longer required viewing for the nation’s movers and shakers, Broadcasting & Cable notes.

“GMA” and “The Early Show” are getting twice as many new viewers as “Today,” and “GMA” has become No. 1 in New York and other major markets.

Despite Couric’s cuddly, girl-next-door image – Fox’s brilliant satire “The Simpsons” has portrayed her as a leprechaun-like creature – close observers note a profound and disturbing bias. Consider:

With this sort of record, no wonder “Today” is becoming so yesterday.

Couric is just the sort of problem General Electric's network doesn’t need now.

Viewers should hope NBC doesn’t get bogged down by Couric and repeat CNN’s mistake of failing to rise to the challenge of more balanced competitors.

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A Page One story in this week's issue of the respected Broadcasting & Cable magazine features a most unflattering photo of Couric with the blazing headline "Storm Watch at Today." The magazine confirms what insiders have been revealing for months: Ratings for "Today,"...
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Thursday, 26 February 2004 12:00 AM
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