Shrewd Katie Couric is continuing to keep her options open as her contract with CBS News approaches its expiration date in June.
So what are her options? It comes down to two choices, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Stay at CBS News as anchor of “CBS Evening News” at a salary that will almost certainly be reduced from her current level (estimated, reportedly, at $15 million a year), or try her hand at daytime talk as host of her own show.
Stories have resurfaced occasionally for months now that Couric is exploring the possibility of launching a syndicated daytime show with potential partners including Time Warner, NBC Universal and her own company, CBS. Former NBC President Jeff Zucker, who was once Couric’s producer in her glory days at NBC’s “Today” show, is often mentioned as a key figure in the exploration process and would likely emerge as executive producer of the show.
Neither Couric nor Zucker nor any of these companies have ever officially confirmed that talks are underway to turn Couric into a new Oprah Winfrey. The THR story quotes unnamed sources as verifying the rumors.
Certainly, piles of money can still be made in daytime syndication, even with viewing levels declining every year (the money is made primarily on the license fees syndicators charge local stations for carrying the shows). Of course, the next few seasons will be different than most of the recent past seasons because Oprah – still the leader in daytime talk – will be leaving the scene this spring. As a result, many TV industry observers believe there’s an opportunity now for new talent to come in and grab her audience. If Couric takes the daytime route, it is believed she’d launch her show in fall 2012.
The challenge for Couric is this: Sure, if a “Katie Couric Show” (or our personal choice for a show title: “Katie!”) catches on, it could run for years and earn her millions. But Couric, 54, is no longer the universally loved personality she once was on “Today.” Nowadays, it seems as many people like her as dislike her. Launching her own talk show successfully will by no means be a sure thing. And if it flops, she’s out of a job altogether.
That’s where the CBS News option comes in. Though CBS has not really said publicly if they’ll fight to re-sign her, it’s assumed that she has the option of deciding to stay on. And even at a reduced pay package, she’ll still make millions – and be signed to a contract ensuring her employment for the foreseeable future.
The THR story notes that Couric has now entered the “window” of time, specified in her contract, where she is now permitted to entertain offers from elsewhere.
That means we’ll likely be seeing more stories about Katie Couric in the weeks to come.