Will CBS keep Couric in anchor chair?
Will Katie Couric stay at CBS News? Her contract ends this May, and the speculation has begun. She's reportedly on a "listening tour," weighing options, but that shouldn't presuppose that CBS isn't weighing options as well. As both deliberate their next move, here are considerations that may come into play.
Good broadcast, good anchor After a soft start, Couric and CBS fell back on tradition, offering a sharp, focused broadcast that plays to the news division's strengths and the audience's interests. Couric has evolved into a first-rate anchor who scored big interviews (Sarah Palin) and has even shined as a field reporter (most recently, Egypt). Some credit is due to CBS executives (like former Peter Jennings' lieutenants Paul Friedman and her producer, Rick Kaplan), but most is due to her.
Promising future Last week CBS News named a new president (David Rhodes) and chairman (Jeff Fager). While Couric and Fager may not be the closest of pals, that may not matter. What does is her tie to CBS boss Leslie Moonves, who, by all accounts, is standing by her. Meanwhile, Rhodes comes from Bloomberg TV. With its vast resources, Bloomberg could offer Couric additional clout and outlets if a merger with CBS News happens, as some expect.
The grass isn't always greener. Whenever her "Today" contract came up for renewal, the possibility of her hosting a syndicated show beckoned. That option is being discussed again, but a better choice is to relaunch her Web interview show as a TV series.
Weak numbers "Evening News" was recently seen by 6.3 million viewers, or about 2.4 million-behind second-place ABC. Audiences have made up their minds about Couric, and they're not about to change them. Opportunities for real growth appear minimal.
CBS decides on a new anchor. Meredith Vieira's "Today" contract ends later this year, too, which has prompted speculation she might return to CBS (with Couric going back to "Today"). An advantage for CBS would be increased viewer sampling. Potential disadvantage? Vieira doesn't move the needle either.
CBS goes cheap. The network dumped high-priced anchors at "The Early Show." Couric's $15-million paycheck is almost certainly history, too.
My prediction Couric stays.