Katie Couric's decision finally became official today: She'll start working immediately for ABC, which will syndicate her talk show in the fall of 2012. Along the way, key questions were answered:
1) Which network? NBC -- which is already comfortably No. 1 in news -- wasn't in the running. CNN was for a while, in a deal that would have Warner Brothers syndicate the show. Still, it was down mostly to CBS and ABC.
Some speculated that Couric had mixed feelings about CBS News and would be glad to jump. They may have been right.
Now she's back to the network where she once worked as a desk assistant. There, we've heard, Sam Donaldson once thought she was so darned cute that he lifted her up and put her on a desk, for everyone to admire. She's come a long way since then; so has the general status of cute little females in the workplace.
2) Network or syndication? There was some talk of simply bumping one of the other shows -- maybe one of the few surviving soaps -- and putting Couric on the network schedule. Still, syndication is better; it gives her a shot at the best, Oprah-style time slots, at 4 and 5 p.m. weekdays.
3) What kind of show? People were willing to pay more if she did an Oprah-style show, one strong on human relationships. Couric reportedly wanted to have more newsy, one-on-one hours.
Still, one key seems to be the fact that Jeff Zucker will produce her show. Zucker made a lot of mistakes when he ran NBC -- you do remember Jay Leno at 10 p.m., don't you? -- but he was considered masterful when he ran "Today." Couric was there then and the show soared in popularity.
He's always found a balance between people and hard news. With Zucker in charge, Couric will have a shot at some of that Oprah gold.
The only complication is that her show arrives a year late. This fall, many shows will be battling for dominance in Oprah's old slots. It will be Ellen DeGeneres and Anderson Cooper, plus Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and more, all fighting for dominance. Chances are, none will completely succeed; a year later, Couric and Zucker will try to rule the late afternoons, just like they once did in the mornings.