Adam Moss’ New York Magazine kicked off the speculation all over again this week that CBS Chairman Les Moonves, in an effort to pull the Tiffany Network’s news shows out of third place, still wants to get Katie Couric into the seat vacated by Dan Rather. (You may remember New York’s cover story earlier this year pitting Katie against ABC’s Diane Sawyer for queen of the morning news crown. Moss has smartly kept media stories front and center in his remake of the city title, thus ensuring lots of chatter among the Michael’s lunch crowd.)
While CBS has got the prime-time mantle sewn up thanks to hits like multiple “CSIs”, it's floundering in the news department. NBC has had its prime-time ratings decimated this season, but it’s still got its morning ratings to boast about thanks to “Today” and its cutie-pie host.
But Couric has long chafed at any of the labels that folks like to affix to the front of her name, like, ahem, cutie pie, or perky, or bubbly. She would like people to think of her as a hard-nosed reporter who also can do a bang-up job relating what colors are going to be hot this spring. The nightly anchor chair would be one way for her to prove she’s got the chops, and put those perky days behind her.
She’s also pricey, with her $13 million annual contract, which expires in May. NBC will fight to keep her anyway. With news content one of the areas the networks can push into emerging-media channels, having a well-liked and recognizable name can help brand that content. And, as New York points out, she owes her career to NBC and its current president, Jeff Zucker. It would be hard for her to leave, no matter how much money and perks CBS dangle in front of her.
Two other factors that could play into her decision is the newly named heads of the two news departments. Jock Sean MacManus replaced CBS News President Andrew Heyward, while just this week NBC installed Steve Capus to oversee NBC News operations. Ultimately any offers or decisions lie with Moonves and Zucker, but how Couric feels about working with the newbies will influence her choice.
While many chatter about what Couric should or shouldn’t do, one person not talking about it publicly is Couric.