Accuracy in Media

CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager said in an interview that he wasn’t sure if Katie Couric wants to stay at the network.

From TV Newser:

Obviously Katie Couric is very important to CBS, people are talking about her, her contract is up in a couple of months. What are your thoughts on Katie?

You know, I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet, and I am looking forward to it, I am sure I will today. I have read about it, but I need to really sit down and see what she is thinking before I do anything else.

That was yesterday.  Today Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast reports that CBS  has asked Couric to stay on through the 2012 elections, though for significantly less money than her current $15 million salary. By all indications, CBS hasn’t been grooming a successor. They would have a huge hole to fill if they don’t resign Couric when her contract expires in May, just as the 2012 election cycle kicks in.

It was rumored at one point that Couric might return to NBC, should CBS not offer her a deal. With her longtime ally Jeff Zucker now gone, and the network owned by Comcast, that option seems more remote now.  Zucker doesn’t plan to remain idle though, possibly trying to get Couric to join in a new venture that could give her Oprah-like exposure, and put her back in the newstainment format.

When CBS hired Couric, they hoped that she would do for them what she did for NBC. Instead, they ended up with a $15 million third place anchor that lost viewers. Thanks to the crisis in Egypt, ratings for the CBS Evening News have risen to their highest level in two years, but viewership has increased at the other networks as well leaving the program in the ratings basement. I think CBS has the edge and the money to strike a short term deal with Couric while they plot a long term strategy on how to revive the evening news.

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