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Too late for Later Today

After just one season, it's so long to NBC's Later Today. NBC confirmed that it will pull the plug on the series, a more chit-chatty version of its The Today Show, on Aug. 11.

Later, covering topics ranging from recipe tips to health advice, never neared the ratings success of its lead-in The Today Show, which currently reigns as the top network morning newscast. (It leads by a wide margin.)

Later, co-hosted by Jodi Applegate, Asha Blake and Florence Henderson, has grabbed a 2.0 rating season-to-date, actually a respectable showing in daytime terms. The only freshman talk effort returning next season, Telepictures' Queen Latifah, posted a 1.3 for the week ending June 25.

But when NBC decided to expand The Today Show by one hour, cutting into Later's time slot, it seemed likely the network would be saying, in essence, see you Later.

Only NBC's 13 O & O's were bumping Later into the 10 a.m. hour to make room for the expansion of The Today Show, set to start Oct. 2. The unwillingness of affiliate stations to fall in line with the O & O's was understandable, considering Later's ho-hum track record.

Henderson, who regularly pops up on The Today Show (most recently as a fitness guru for seniors), should find renewed life on the longer Today Show. No word yet on the fates of Blake (a former anchor at KNBC(TV) Los Angeles) and Applegate.

The revamped Today, running 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., will also cause some headaches for Buena Vista Television's syndicated Regis & Kathie Lee, which airs in most markets in the 9 a.m. hour. The studio has maintained that it has multiyear deals with stations to keep Regis & Kathie Lee at 9 a.m., and is expecting stations to make good on those agreements. But there has been speculation that certain stations could instead push to air the third hour of Today, especially when one wonders if Regis Philbin can hold on to viewers sans Kathie Lee come July 28.