As expected, ABC today confirmed that it reached a deal with television personality Katie Couric to syndicate a daily talk show beginning in September 2012. In making the announcement, ABC revealed that Couric's still-untitled show will air in the timeslot currently occupied by General Hospital. In a statement, ABC stated that it "continues to support General Hospital," but the network has not indicated if GH will continue to air past September 2012.
When Couric's show debuts, ABC will give back one hour of its daytime lineup to local affiliates. That will allow each individual station to decide what programs to air. In doing so, ABC will have three hours of time to fill -- and four hours of programming.
"The announcement does not mean the inevitable cancellation of General Hospital," an ABC spokesperson told Soap Opera Digest. "Rather it means that in September 2012, we will program our daytime block with our three strongest shows. We'll have options for the daytime daypart just like we do each year with primetime. We believe in all of our shows and the ones that our viewers want will be the ones that continue. There are many options that could happen... only time will tell."
"As you'll note, we went out of our way to state that we continue to support the show," Kevin Brockman, a Disney-ABC Television spokesman, told CNN. "We have a long time between now and fall of 2012, so fans should be encouraged to continue watching and supporting."
There are several scenarios that could play out -- and not all are dire for soap fans.
In April, ABC announced that it had opted to cancel All My Children and One Life to Live -- both will be replaced by talk shows. All My Children will air its final episode on September 23, 2011, and be replaced by a food-skewing talk show, The Chew. One Life to Live will end its 43-year run on January 20, 2012, and be replaced by a weight-loss program dubbed The Revolution. The talk shows reportedly cost 40 percent less to produce than soap operas, and have more opportunities for product placement by advertisers.
Either The Chew or The Revolution -- or both -- could fail to catch on with viewers, and end up being canceled. That would open up a timeslot to which General Hospital could be transitioned.
Entertainment Weekly also reports that The Chew, The Revolution, and/or General Hospital could be pared down to 30-minute programs. The resulting combination could allow General Hospital to move to a new timeslot and remain an hour-long program, or be relocated somewhere in the schedule as a half-hour show.
General Hospital could also go off the air in September 2012.
After the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live, ABC Daytime's president, Brian Frons, stated that ABC felt "very positive about [General Hospital's] place on the schedule." Frons also revealed that the network had been quietly planning to trim its daytime lineup for at least a year.
A network source tells Soap Central that no decision about General Hospital's future will be made until next year.