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Lauer and Couric: Together again?

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NBC's "Today" show deal with Matt Lauer isn't up until December 2012; Katie Couric could be off the air at CBS by June 2011, or shortly thereafter. Photo Credit: NBC

There have been a couple of vague reports -- leaked by former NBCU chairman Jeff Zucker, to The New York Times -- that Katie Couric and Matt  Lauer are kicking around an idea for a syndicated show. How this would work out is unsaid, but it's intriguing and doubtless Couric pal and protege Zucker has brought both back into his sphere to explore an idea that could be the linchpin of his new TV or TV distribution company.

Nevertheless, this idea has complications. NBC's deal with Matt isn't up until December 2012; Katie could be off the air by June, or shortly thereafter. She would then launch a syndicated show -- almost a certainty now -- by the fall of this year, or perhaps later. If you're a syndicator, you would prefer to launch sooner than later, so many marketplace questions marks  -- otherwise known as blood in the water in syndication terms. Oprah's gone next month, then Regis is outtathere by November.

But if Katie's show airs by this fall, Matt isn't available for one solid year and then some. In fact, I'd go with the "then some:" NBC would certainly enforce a noncompete which would keep him off anybody's air for months, so figure on midway through 2013. By that point, Katie's show could be a  hit -- or canceled. Either way, she'd have no use for him.

What could possibly circumvent this? Well, if NBC buys her show. NBC needs morning content, and daytime content, too; a talk show with Katie could even launch at 11 a.m. -- the mythical fifth hour of "Today," replacing that "Access Hollywood" expanded edition in there now. Call it "Live with Matt and Katie!" Nah, bad name.

But irrespective of this, "Today" would still want to keep Matt on the air through 2012 from 7 to 9; NBC buying her show might only cut out that six month non-compete.

Also, why would she want to take her show to NBC? It would stand a much better chance of success on the powerful CBS-owned station lineup, with CBS's distribution arm -- perhaps led by King World -- as part of the bargain.

So a Matt/Katie reunion might not -- again -- still be able to take place until mid-2013.

I give Zucker some credit for thinking this all up -- it gives his Katie show that little bit of excitement much needed to make stations sit up and pay notice. But I go through all of this simply to make one single and obvious point: I don't see how it can happen.

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