Oct 9, 2010 9 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Friends of Katie Couric are saying the chances of her remaining at CBS are getting slimmer.
CNN appears especially eager to sign Couric now that the new show starring ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer is off to a stumbling start.
Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, yesterday said that CNN has the money “to pay for some of the biggest talent in TV news” — just when CBS was saying that the era of the big-salary anchor is ending.
“The Katie Couric deal will be the last big deal of that kind ever done,” Les Moonves, the head of CBS, said this week. “Those days are over.”
Couric makes a reported $16 million a year, tops among the three network news anchors — but her contract ends in May.
“People are getting the news elsewhere,” Moonves said. “When there were only three networks, you did have that public service component, where we were informing America. Now, there is nothing that Katie Couric is saying that everybody doesn’t know already.”
Moonves was the one who talked Couric into leaving the “Today” show four years ago to take the anchor chair at CBS and has long been her biggest champion at the network.
And, while Moonves appeared to be talking generally about the sorry state of TV news right now, the remarks seemed to signal CBS is unwilling to re-sign Couric at any price. “I won’t pretend that [what Mooves said] was helpful,” a source close to the anchor said yesterday. “But she is talking to CBS and nothing has changed.”
Insiders at the network insist that Couric has not been written off.
“Les and Katie remain close, so don’t be surprised if Katie stays,” said a CBS insider.
But CNN now appears more willing than it was last summer to lure Katie.
“There’s plenty of economic health in TV news,” Bewkes said during an unusual appearance on rival Fox News Channel this week.
“So you’re not for putting a cap on talent [salaries]?” Fox anchor Neil Cavuto asked.
“Absolutely not,” Bewkes replied, adding “let the word go out.”
Couric’s stay at CBS has not been happy, say friends.
Other correspondents at the network have not been friendly, and she has not been given the kind of stories on “60 Minutes” that she’d been promised when she first came.
If Couric does elect to leave CBS, it is likely she would not take much time off before getting a new job.
The 2012 presidential campaign begins in earnest next fall and, say friends, she wants to be on the air somewhere before the Iowa caucuses.