Katie Couric In Battle to Fill Oprah's Shoes

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Katie Couric is the latest media personality to throw her hat in the talk show ring in the battle for Oprah Winfrey's daytime throne.

According to The Associated Press, Couric is expected to leave her anchor post at the "CBS Evening News" and launch a syndicated talk show in 2012. She will join Anderson Cooper, Rosie O'Donnell and Martin Bashir in competing for a share of Winfrey's audience when the Queen of Talk ends her popular daytime show after 25 years on May 25.

In the current issue of The New York Times magazine, Couric admitted she's been talking with her former "Today" show boss Jeff Zucker about hosting her own talk show. Asked what she'd been known for, she replied, "Hopefully for smart conversation."

But will Couric come out on top?

"It's risky," Ken Auletta, media columnist for The New Yorker, told ABCNews.com. "She has real talent as an interviewer. She has more experience doing soft interviews than Anderson does and more experience doing hard interviews than Rosie does. Obviously she is better known than the other two. She has certain advantages."

"On the other hand, Jane Pauley tried it and failed," Auletta added. "It is a risk."

Pauley was Couric's predecessor on the "Today" show and NBC, which produced Pauley's failed talk show, is said to be vying for Couric.

So is Warner Brother's Telepictures, producer of "Ellen," comedian Ellen DeGeneres' successful talk show. But Telepictures also will be producing Cooper's show, which debuts this fall. Both shows could rob Couric of potential time slots.

Couric made history as the first sole female anchor of a network newscast. Her reported $15 million annual salary was as controversial as her attempts to reshape the broadcast.

Looking back, she told the Times magazine, "I would have given people what they were used to, a traditional newscast. And then as they got to know me and got more comfortable, then I would've started toying with the format and trying new things. I think we were overly ambitious. We probably would have been better off playing it a little safer."

Though Couric's contract expires on June 4, she might do well to stay put with the network, a giant in the syndication business with "Dr. Phil" and "Judge Judy." By launching her show on CBS-owned stations, Couric could get a head start.

Auletta said with so many variables -- from the number of stations to the time slot -- it's too soon to say how any of these personalities might perform. So why do it?

"It's about independence and more control over lives and, secondly, money," Auletta said. "Katie is getting $15 million from CBS. They're not going to be paying those kind of salaries any more."

A brief assessment of how her competition in the talk show stakes stacks up:

Rosie O'Donnell

Comedian/actress O'Donnell has plenty of experience in talk, having once hosted her own successful daytime talk show.

Since then, she has alienated some viewers with her strong opinions and public persona. Now, she's going back to talk, this time on Winfrey's new network, OWN. She'll even be taping her show in Winfrey's old studio in Chicago with some of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" staff.

Will some of that Winfrey magic rub off on Rosie?

"You can't transfer your popularity to someone else," Auletta said. "They're going to judge Rosie on her own show. She's not an extension of Oprah. Rosie is a much more opinionated person than Oprah."

O'Donnell told The Oprah Magazine that the show will be less about celebrities and more about real people and issues. "I'll focus on a single topic for one hour, things people deal with every day. Raising children. The education system in America. Autism. Relationships, health, weight, depression -- and happy stuff too, of course," she said. "I envision the show being full of love and laughter."

It remains to be seen how viewers will respond to the new O'Donnell. "There are second, third and fourth acts in life," Auletta said. "Viewers may feel differently about her tomorrow."

Martin Bashir

Former "Nightline" anchor Martin Bashir, debuted his eponymously-named daytime show on MSNBC last month.

The show is similar to other daytime news programs but allows Bashir to add his spin on things with his closing segment, "Clear the Air." It's too soon to tell how well the show will do, but Auletta wonders if it will be given time to find its footing.

"The problem today is there is so much competition that people pull the plug on you really fast," he said.

Anderson Cooper

This fall, Cooper will divide his time between his nightly newscast "Anderson Cooper 360" on CNN and a syndicated daytime talk show "Anderson."

Hilary Estey McLoughlin, the president of Telepictures, has compared Cooper's upcoming show to Winfrey's show "in terms of range." She told the New York Daily News that she envisions Cooper doing "an hour with a celebrity one day" and an investigation of women's rights around the world the next day.

"Anderson" will have a studio audience and feature pop culture, human interest stories, investigative reports and the occasional town hall meeting.

Cooper's advantages: "His energy and relative youth. He's a he. He's a good interviewer. He is a sympathetic character and he has empathy," Auletta said. "But then, so do Katie and Rosie."