It’s looking more and more likely that Katie Couric’s days as anchor of “The CBS Evening News” are numbered.
Two separate reports – one in the Los Angeles Times and the other by Howard Kurtz on TheDailyBeast.com – both say Couric’s a lot more likely to leave the CBS newscast than to stay when her contract expires in June.
Why? It really comes down to the CBS newscast’s lethargic ratings, for one. It’s still in third place behind the first-place “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams and second-place “World News” on ABC with Diane Sawyer.
The bottom line is that viewers have not really embraced Couric in the role of news anchor. “She did not boost ratings the way CBS would have liked,” says the L.A. Times story. “Her persona, perfect for the morning, ultimately did not work as well in the evenings. [And] the media seemed more obsessed than viewers about her role as CBS News anchor.”
Citing unnamed sources, the consensus of both the Times and Daily Beast stories is that the discussions Couric is having with various companies about hosting a newly created daytime talk show starting in fall 2012 are serious. And, as a result, CBS News execs have begun planning for life after Couric. “A few short weeks ago, the expectation in the Couric camp -– after discussions with top CBS management –- was that she would sign a new deal to stay in the anchor’s job through the 2012 elections as she figured out the next phase of her career,” the Daily Beast reports. “But the thinking on both sides has now changed as Couric has aggressively tested the waters –- and found substantial interest in her services.”
Our own take is this: Starting up a new daytime talk show is a huge gamble. Daytime viewership is declining steadily and talk shows certainly don’t get the gangbuster ratings they once did. Oprah Winfrey’s leaving the scene, of course, so that might mean there’s room for someone with star quality –- someone such as Couric -– to swoop in and attract some of Oprah’s audience. But can a Couric talk show really gain traction in daytime, where the talk shows are either the type hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, heavy on celebrity guests, or the ones Maury Povich and Jerry Springer preside over with their brawls and paternity tests?
One thing we’ve always felt: Couric’s image has taken a hit in the years since she was America’s sweetheart on “Today.” A daytime show would at least give her an opportunity to put her once-winning personality back on display after toiling for five years in the very-serious world of hard news where sunny personalities such as hers really have no place.
Who will replace her at CBS News? Both stories point to veteran newsman Scott Pelley, now seen on “60 Minutes,” who may not move the newscast out of third place, but he’ll at least come at a cheaper price than Couric, who reportedly commanded $15 million a year.