Daytime drama: How will ABC 7 make room for Katie & Kelly?

Katie Couric and Kelly Ripa are coming to the station that Oprah Winfrey used to call home. But adding their daytime talk shows to WLS-Channel 7 will mean disrupting a lineup that has led the ratings in Chicago for more than 25 years.

The big question is: Where will they go? And the bigger question is: Will viewers follow?

Starting September 10, Katie, the new syndicated talk show hosted by the former Today host and CBS Evening News anchor, and distributed by Disney-ABC, is expected to air here at 3pm Monday through Friday, leading into the ABC-owned station’s 4pm newscast.

Couric’s show will bump the syndicated magazine Inside Edition and game show Jeopardy! from their longtime slots at 3 and 3:30pm, respectively, to 2 and 2:30pm. The long-running ABC soap opera General Hospital, in turn, will move from 2pm to 1pm, replacing the ABC talk show The Revolution, which has been canceled. (From July 9 through September 7, ABC will air a summertime afternoon show produced by Good Morning America called GMA in the Afternoon at 1pm.)

September 2013 will bring more changes to ABC 7’s lineup when the station picks up Live with Kelly, the syndicated talk show also distributed by Disney-ABC. The show, which Ripa previously co-hosted with Regis Philbin, has been airing since 2002 at 9am weekdays on Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9.

For all the years The Oprah Winfrey Show dominated the 9am time slot in Chicago, Live with Regis & Kelly was little more than an also-ran in the ratings. But in the 12 months since Winfrey retired, Live with Kelly has proved a formidable competitor against Windy City Live, the local talk show that replaced Oprah at 9am on ABC 7.

Windy City Live, hosted by Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini, wins in overall households, but Nielsen figures for January through April show Live with Kelly leading among adults between 25 and 54 and women between 25 and 54. So far in May, the two shows are virtually tied in the advertiser-friendly demographics.

With 16 months to go, no one knows where Live with Kelly will run on ABC 7’s lineup. It could replace General Hospital if ABC cancels the last soap opera on its schedule. It could replace Katie if Couric’s afternoon talk show falters. Or it could remain in its 9am time slot, bumping Windy City Live to another hour — or off the air entirely.

It’s further complicated by a change in management at the station. The resignation last week of Emily Barr as president and general manager of ABC 7 to head Post-Newsweek Stations removes Windy City Live’s No. 1 benefactor and champion. Her replacement, who has not been named, may not feel as strongly about the show as Barr did.

Although Chicago viewers associate Live with Kelly (and its predecessors, Live with Regis & Kelly and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee [Gifford]) with WGN, the show has had a checkered history in the market, according to Chicago media blogger Terence Henderson.

Starting here in 1990, Live first aired on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, then moved to an overnight slot on ABC 7 in 1991, then to CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 opposite Oprah in 1993, then to WGN in 1995, then back to Fox Chicago in 1997, and then back to overnights on ABC 7 in 1999. It finally settled into its current 9am slot on WGN in 2002. Ripa succeeded Gifford as co-host in 2001.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)