Speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour, CBS News chairman Jeff Fager showed that he is a master of understatement when he told the group that “I think we did lose some viewers in recent years” in referring to Katie Couric’s tenure at the network.
CBS lost “some” viewers alright, about 600,000 in the key A25-54 demographic since the fourth quarter of 2007, which was Couric’s first full quarter at CBS. Also, as this chart shows, the gap between the CBS Evening News and the top rated NBC Nightly News doubled during the Couric years.
Fager also told the group that he thought viewers were returning now that Scott Pelley is in the anchor chair. But so far Pelley has been only marginally better than Couric, meaning that the network may never get them back.
At least CBS isn’t paying Pelley as much as they did Couric, so even with low ratings the network might wind up better off financially in the long run.