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October 25, 2014

Katie Couric vs. Diane Sawyer: Who Will Be The Ratings Winner?

by Liane Bonin, posted Dec 21st 2009 10:00AM
Diane Sawyer and Katie CouricAs you've undoubtedly heard, Diane Sawyer has ditched 'Good Morning America' to take over 'World News' from Charlie Gibson (her gig began yesterday). And while plenty of people are wondering how George Stephanopoulos will fare in her stead, what we're far more interested in is seeing the bloody ratings catfight that will now be taking place nightly at 6:30 p.m., as Sawyer goes up against Katie Couric over at 'CBS Evening News.'

Sure, it's a battle for second place (the multi-talented and funny Brian Williams is a consistent winner with 'NBC Nightly News', one of the few bright spots in NBC's schedule). But it's one that has the potential for major upheaval (Couric's contract is up in 2011). So, who will win? Right now, odds are in Sawyer's favor -- and here's why.t now, odds are in Sawyer's favor -- and here's why.Diane Sawyer and Katie CouricAs you've undoubtedly heard, Diane Sawyer has ditched 'Good Morning America' to take over 'World News' from Charlie Gibson (her gig began yesterday -- read more about it here). And while plenty of people are wondering how George Stephanopoulos will fare in her stead, what we're far more interested in is seeing the bloody ratings catfight that will now be taking place nightly at 6:30 p.m., as Sawyer goes up against Katie Couric over at 'CBS Evening News.'

Sure, it's a battle for second place (the multi-talented and funny Brian Williams is a consistent winner with 'NBC Nightly News', one of the few bright spots in NBC's schedule). But it's one that has the potential for major upheaval (Couric's contract is up in 2011). So, who will win? Right now, odds are in Sawyer's favor -- and here's why.

KATIE WILL LOSE HER GIRL POWER ADVANTAGE
When Katie took over 'CBS Evening News' in 2006, it was a Very Big Deal because she was the first woman to anchor the news on her own. And at first, it was easy enough for both critics and fans to attribute Couric's lack of strong ratings to simple sexism. But having a female anchor is no longer a novelty, and now with Sawyer as her direct competition, it may become clear that Katie's performance is all about Katie -- but not necessarily in a way that benefits her. Advantage: Sawyer

DIANE HAS THE GRAVITAS KATIE LACKS ...
Sawyer and Couric both have hard news backgrounds, they're both been (and in Couric's case, continue to be) '60 Minutes' contributors and morning show co-hosts, they're both accomplished and whip-smart. So, given the choice between watching one over the other, why do we lean toward Sawyer? Not only does she land the big interviews -- and don't forget, she worked for Nixon -- but she also seems ... serious. Not in a boring way or self-important way, but as serious as a news anchor should be. Couric's coverage of the election was thorough, but she looked like she'd be happier interviewing excited fans in Rockefeller Center. During Sawyer's 'GMA' stint, she always had a somewhat bemused grin on her face, as if she knew she was going lowbrow but was good-humored enough to give the gig the old college try. Advantage: Sawyer

Katie CouricBUT KATIE HAS SKILLS DIANE LACKS
While both women are strong interviewers, we have to give Katie Couric props for her interviewing fearlessness. Sawyer lobbed lame softballs at Michael Jackson; Couric wasn't afraid to nail Sarah Palin to the wall (and possibly do more to sink Palin's chances at the White House than Tina Fey). Clearly, having a rep as a morning show cutie pie can play to your advantage. More importantly, Couric has become a presence to be reckoned with when it comes to the Web. She hosts a weekly Webcast which focuses on in-depth interviews and tends to be looser and more relaxed than her nightly broadcast -- she even smiles and laughs. The only catch is, does it translate into TV ratings? Unfortunately, not so far. But it could give Couric a lot more career longevity as TV withers and new media rises. Advantage: Couric

Diane SawyerWE'VE SEEN LESS OF DIANE ... AND THAT'S A GOOD THING
Yes, there was a big debate about whether Sawyer was a wee bit drunk doing 'GMA' interviews the morning after the Obama inauguration. But that pales in comparison to what we've seen of Katie recently, when her daughter unwisely posted pictures of Mom dirty dancing on her Facebook page. Heck, Katie invited us to her first colonoscopy (which, while important and educational, was still really gross). What made us love Katie on 'The Today Show' was her ability to give us the impression she was the ever-smiling best friend we had always wanted, so photos of her getting her groove on at a party or showing us her rectum just made her human. With her sitting in the anchor's chair, it now feels like TMI. Advantage: too soon to tell

KATIE'S ALWAYS BEEN AN UNEASY FIT FOR CBS

When CBS decided to plop Couric into the nightly news gig, a lot of people scratched their heads because ... well, it was CBS, the network of older viewers and legendary news icons Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Couric is, in many ways, the anti-Cronkite -- a personable best friend rather than the trusted older mentor that has traditionally represented CBS. Granted, she probably seemed like a good investment, given her household name status, but she's always been a curious fit for the network. Unfortunately, we'll always wonder if Katie might have gotten better ratings at ABC or NBC. Advantage: Sawyer

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