Less than five years after becoming the first woman to helm a weekday nightly news show solo, Katie Couric is rumored to be leaving CBS Evening News. Her contract is set to expire on June 4, 2011.
An unnamed network official told the Associated Press Sunday night that Couric would leave soon, and that she would probably launch a syndicated talk show in 2012.
CBS, however, kept mum when asked about Couric’s fate:
“We’re having ongoing discussions with Katie Couric,” said CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair in a statement Monday, and said the network had “no announcements to make at this time.”
Though Couric is CBS News’ current leading lady, she’s been consistently third in ratings among the three nightly network news broadcasts. NBC’s newscast, led by Brian Williams, consistently garners 50 percent more viewers than CBS does with Couric. Before sliding behind the news desk, Couric was co-anchor of CBS’ hugely popular “Today” for 15 years. Network executives had high hopes for the blonde 54-year-old when she started the news gig in 2006, assigning her a $15 million salary. After showing initial interest, however, viewers changed the channel.
The Atlantic notes that Couric led the network to the worst-ever week in 2008, with 5.4 million viewers, and by 2010 had tallied an even worse 4.89 million viewers.
Despite viewer disinterest, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric did win Edward R. Murrow awards in 2008 and 2009. Couric’s 2008 interview with Sarah Palin, then the Republican vice-presidential nominee, is noted as being one of the most consequential in shaping public opinion about Palin’s fitness for the post. (When asked what newspapers she read, Palin said she read “all of them,” and didn’t name a single title.)
Rumors of Couric’s departure are not anything new: As far back as December 2010, it was reported that she may not negotiate a new contract beyond this summer.
According to the LA Times, just because Couric’s primetime run may come to an end, she’s not necessarily done with CBS. Couric has been pitching ideas for daytime shows to CBS, as well as NBC and ABC, perhaps hoping to fill the afternoon network void Oprah Winfrey created with the end of Oprah and dawn of the OWN channel.
Couric appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman March 23, where she said she hadn’t made a decision about her future yet.
“I’m figuring out what I want to do, and I’m sort of in the process of thinking about the future,” she said.
Letterman pressured her to stay and noted her relatively short five-year stint at the desk, citing the long runs of network anchors such as Walter Cronkite, saying, “Once you take the anchor chair, that’s what you do.”
Couric asked, “Is that a CBS law?”
“No, but it’s not like it’s a temp gig,” Letterman said.
(Watch the video below, originally broadcast on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman March 23, 2011.)
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