In the race to be The Next Oprah, Anderson Cooper sees the light of daytime

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, October 1, 2010

Ever since Oprah Winfrey announced that she's shuttering her daytime syndicated talk show at the end of this season, Hollywood's vertically integrated media conglomerates have been scrambling to find The Next Oprah.

Time Warner thinks it might be . . . Anderson Cooper.

The company's TV syndication division, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, announced Thursday that it has signed Cooper to star in his own one-hour daily talk show. He will continue to anchor his prime-time show on Time Warner's CNN for, as Cooper put it in a statement issued by CNN, "years to come," because the ratings-fumbling cable news network has just extended his deal.

Cooper will also be an executive producer of his new show. Launching Cooper into the daytime talk arena makes a lot of sense because the target audience for daytime TV is women between the ages of 25 and 54 and, according to Nielsen, in the third quarter of 2010, prime-time's Cooper's CNN show, "AC 360," averaged 82,000 women in that age bracket -- compared with the third quarter of '09, when it averaged 192,000 women 25 to 54. Oh, wait . . .

But, of course, Cooper is a celebrity in his own right. He's a member of the rolling-in-dough Vanderbilt family, son of fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt, Channel One trailblazer, ABC News staffer, "The Mole" reality series host and "60 Minutes" contributor. And the daytime television audience these days does love watching celebrities interview celebrities. Like when Rosie O'Donnell had her own talk show. And more recently, Ellen DeGeneres. Not coincidentally, both those shows hail from Warner Bros. and Telepictures Productions, which are partnered on the new Cooper show.

Cooper joins a lineup of national TV news talent who've made the transition to daytime; the list includes Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira, Julie Chen, Jane Pauley and, if recent news reports pan out, maybe Bryant Gumbel.

Also not coincidentally, Warner Bros. and Telepictures wanted to emphasize the celebritude of Cooper in Thursday's announcement, saying they had signed Cooper the Emmy Award-winning "personality." And Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Telepictures, noted that the hallmark of her company's success has been "attracting iconic talent and building franchises based on their personalities."

In his daytime strip -- that's industry lingo for a show that airs every weekday -- Cooper will address "water-cooler topics" and interview "real people," "populist newsmakers" and "celebrities" behind the stories of the day. He will also use "undercover investigations" and "hidden-camera experiments" to explore "relevant issues and social trends affecting women's lives," the producers said.

Cooper is no stranger to daytime talk TV; among other gigs, he's filled in often for Regis Philbin on "Live! With Regis and Kelly."

Cooper joins a crowded race to replace Oprah, who's leaving the world of daytime syndication to launch cable's Oprah Winfrey Network. Already listed as possible successors: Dr. Oz, Jenny McCarthy and Nancy Grace -- with more names to come, we're sure.

The kiss

"Modern Family's" gay couple, Cameron and Mitchell, have kissed. The republic is still standing.

Wednesday's kiss is the denouement of months of near-hysteria in the blather-o-sphere, re the lack of prime-time kissing by the ABC sitcom couple:

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