Rosie O'Donnell to Leave TV Show

N E W  Y O R K, Nov. 20, 2000 -- Rosie O’Donnell may be gaining a magazine, butlosing her talk show.

The daytime talk show host, during an appearance on NBC’s Today to promote her new association with McCall’s magazine, hedged atfirst but then indicated she would end The Rosie O’Donnell Showwhen her contract expires in spring 2002.

A sensation upon its debut in 1996, O’Donnell’s show has saggedin the ratings this year, and the one-time Queen of Nice has beenin a few political dustups. She is committed to her show throughthe next season.

Still Not Final

She told NBC’s Katie Couric on Friday that she was “leaningtoward” not continuing.

“Why don’t you just say, ‘I’m not going to do it’?” Couricsaid. “Then you’d really make news this morning.”

O’Donnell replied: “All right, I’m not going to do it.”

Couric gave O’Donnell a chance to escape, saying she didn’t wantto pressure her into making a decision too early. O’Donnell didn’tback down, and said that an announcement is expected in January.

“Warner Brothers has been wonderful to me,” she said. “They,of course, would love for me to continue. It’s beneficial to me, asit is to them. But at some point you have to make those decisionsin your life.”

Scott Rowe, spokesman for show syndicators Warner BrothersTelevision, said that the company never discusses contractnegotiations, “but we’re hopeful that Rosie will return.”

Laura Mandel, a spokeswoman for the show, said, “Our stance isthat nothing’s been decided.”

O’Donnell was a clear third in the talk show ratings peckingorder behind Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer as recently as thisspring. But this fall, her ratings have dropped by 19 percent, andshe has slipped behind Regis Philbin and Maury Povich into a tiefor fifth with Montel Williams.

“The show is aging and it’s losing steam,” said Marc Berman,an analyst for Media Week Online.

It’s always possible O’Donnell could be threatening to leave inorder to negotiate a better deal, said Bill Carroll, an expert onTV syndication for the Katz Television Group.

Troubled Ratings

But while many TV station owners once considered O’Donnell anheir apparent to Winfrey, now most expect Winfrey to outlast her,he said. Winfrey recently signed a new contract that will keep heron the air through at least 2004.

O’Donnell has become more politically active in Democraticcauses and last year engaged in a tense on-air debate on guncontrol with Tom Selleck. A day before the election this month, shegave Barbra Streisand a platform to promote Gore’s candidacy.Streisand said O’Donnell’s syndicators didn’t like the idea.

Some stations have been concerned about O’Donnell’s politicalactivism, Carroll said. “No one wants her to not express herfeelings, but at the same time, that’s not necessarily the bestformat for it,” he said.

O’Donnell told Couric that she began doing the show because itwas a convenient schedule for her young children. Now, she said sheis concerned that it’s hindering her ability to be a good parent,since strangers often approach them in public.

“The main impetus for doing the show was my children,” shesaid. “And if I did stop doing the show, that would be theimpetus, as well, because I enjoy it very much. It’s been morefulfilling than I ever thought.”

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