Whoopi Goldberg Takes Seat at 'The View'

Fills Slot Left Empty by Controversial Rosie O'Donnell

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's official: Whoopi Goldberg is taking over as moderator of ABC's morning gabfest "The View." Advertisers will look to see if the actress and comedienne can be as controversial as her predecessor, Rosie O'Donnell, while still remaining palatable to a mainstream TV audience.
Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg Credit: AP

Ms. Goldberg will make her debut on the program, created and executive produced by newswoman Barbara Walters, on Sept. 4, the start of its new season. Since the show's inception, Ms. Goldberg has made 13 guest appearances and been a guest co-host 14 times. Other celebrities rumored to be in contention in the past several months have included Roseanne Barr and Gayle King.

The moderator chair has been vacant since its last occupant, Rosie O'Donnell, departed just weeks after announcing in April she would relinquish her seat in June. Instead, she quickly jumped after getting into a shouting match with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck over the war in Iraq.

Squaring off
Once satirized on sketch-comedy shows as an airy coffee klatch where women discussed little of import, "The View" has transformed itself into a daily session of "What the hell is that?" with the hosts squaring off on politics or the news of the day. Ms. O'Donnell was particularly good at goosing the program's "Wha?" quotient, as she would frequently needle Ms. Hasselbeck, the youngest host on the program. In Ms. O'Donnell's final appearance, the program showed the two squaring off via a split screen, turning the once-benign morning show into something that would be more familiar to viewers of cable news.

Madison Avenue wants someone who can be a little indelicate. The new host "should be someone who is a little controversial, edgy, not afraid to speak her mind," said Shari Anne Brill, who studies programming for Aegis Group's Carat USA.

Indeed, having an instigator sit around with Ms. Walters, Ms. Hasselbeck and comedienne Joy Behar makes for a smart selling strategy. "When you can do something in the daytime that's still being talked about on Jay Leno and Letterman and all the late-night shows or 'The Daily Show,' all you are doing is helping promote the next day's viewing, and I think that's not a model they are willing to walk away from," said Laura Caraccioli-Davis, exec VP at Publicis Groupe's Starcom USA. "It's a good promotional gimmick."

Top advertisers
"The View" took in about $105.5 million in ad revenue in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Top advertisers on the program last year included Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, S.C. Johnson & Son, Clorox and Unilever. Since they appeal to mothers and families, those consumer-package-goods marketers often associate themselves with conservative programming, which means anyone on "The View" can go only so far over the line.

Indeed, some media buyers hope Ms. Walters will increase her presence on the show. "You always need the good traffic cop there, the voice of reason, to sort of keep the show focused and steer it back on course when it goes off on tangents," Ms. Brill said.
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