Since ABC announced the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live last month, soap fans have wondered if it was only a matter of time before the same fate befell the network's only other soap opera, General Hospital. Now rumors are heating up that ABC could very well be planning to shut down General Hospital next year.
For several weeks, various broadcast and cable networks have been battling it out to sign Katie Couric to a contract after the former Today show host announced her departure as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Everyone from CNN to NBC had reportedly expressed an interest, but when CBS pulled out of talks last week, it left ABC as the only suitor still in play for Couric.
A published report claims that ABC is offering Couric $20 million to develop a one-hour, weekday talk show that would start airing in September 2012. Couric would also continue to do "newsy" features for ABC News, including 20/20 and other specials.
The problem is that many of ABC's stations have already made plans for their daytime hours in the wake of Oprah's exit from daytime and the end of two iconic soap operas. Those plans have often included adding an additional hour of local news in the 4pm timeslot. To help get those ABC owned-and-operated stations on board with Couric's planned show, ABC is considering ceding an hour of time back to the affiliates. Though it is too soon to say, TMZ and Variety are reporting that it is possible that ABC would cancel General Hospital, the third longest-running soap in the history of television.
All hope is not lost, though, for soap fans. There is also a strong possibility that Couric's talk show could replace one of the already announced soap killers, The Chew and The Revolution, should either of those shows fail to make a ratings impact. Chatter has already surfaced in industry magazines that one of ABC's recently announced lifestyle programs is likely to be canceled sooner rather than later. If that happens, it would allow ABC to place Couric's show in one of those two slots -- or move General Hospital to an alternate timeslot.
CBS also still has 30 days to match any offer made by ABC.
An official announcement from the network is expected in the coming weeks, possibly by June 5.