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Katie Couric, whose daytime talk show starts in the fall, could be Winfrey’s true heir as an interviewer in daytime. Her lengthy tenure at NBC’s “Today” show makes her able to deftly switch from world leaders to actors to quirky celebrities enjoying 15 minutes of fame. “Not many people can do that,” Bragman said.

First things first, however. Couric needs to build a show and prove that people want to watch her. Establishing booking superiority before Couric starts could benefit Winfrey.

While “Today” and CBS’ “60 Minutes” are able to land strong interviews, no television organization has been as aggressive as ABC News in seeking the big “gets.” The latest example is this week, with the network giving a prime-time platform to Chris Cuomo’s interview with former presidential candidate John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter.

Diane Sawyer was rewarded last summer when her interview with Jaycee Dugard, who had been held captive by a sex offender for 18 years, had the best summertime ratings of a newsmagazine since 2004. Her November interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords about recovering from being shot in the head was seen by more than 12 million people.

There’s more to ABC’s efforts than filling a void left by Winfrey, said Eric Avram, who runs the network’s interview bookings. Still, he doesn’t miss her.

Oprah obviously had an enormous presence and her iconic show was one of our biggest competitors,” he said.

ABC usually gives its interviews wide exposure, on shows like “Good Morning America,” `’World News” and “Nightline,” and will often give interview subjects an hour in prime-time. ABC News’ content sharing deal with Yahoo! also guarantees a wide web presence for the stories.

Having Couric in-house enabled ABC News to secure interviews with some British royal family members this spring, but delicate issues loom. Couric will remain with ABC News but her first allegiance will be to her talk show, which is syndicated and will be seen on some non-ABC stations. That leaves unclear whether ABC will be able to use interviews that Couric gets.

While ABC is doing well now, Bragman said not to underestimate NBC and the competition between the two. “They are both working very hard now,” he said.

So is Winfrey, Salata said.

“If somebody has a rough story and wants to be more than a movie star or more than a pop singer, they know they’re going to get that opportunity with Oprah,” she said. “That is a huge advantage. That really does keep us in the game with all the big interviews.”