|Katie Couric told 'The Today Show' audience this morning that her last day will be May 31. Today is her 15th anniversary as anchor of the morning show.
Although her “Today” co-host Matt Lauer had to prompt her to say why she was leaving, CBS had no hesitation sending out a release this morning trumpeting its new star. Ms. Couric will stay with "Today" through May 31 and begin her new post in September. Along with filling the seat long held by Dan Rather, and most recently by Bob Scheiffer, Ms. Couric will contribute pieces to CBS’s "60 Minutes" and anchor prime-time specials.
“Seasoned broadcasters who are at once respected, charismatic and known throughout this country and beyond are increasingly important in this fragmented media landscape,” Mr. Moonves said in the statement. “I'm proud to have a talent like Katie, who personifies this rare combination of qualities, and look forward to the many contributions that she will make not only to our developing evening news broadcast, but to our entire news operation."
Blow to 'Today?'
With the move, Mr. Moonves manages to strike a potentially damaging blow to rival NBC by wooing away a key player from its most profitable show, which brings in $250 million in profit annually. NBC has struggled the past two years with its prime-time lineup, and its unrivaled strength in the morning has helped it weather that storm. But even that has begun to show cracks, as ABC’s “Good Morning America” last year had several weeks where it nearly pulled even with “Today” in ratings. According to the latest ratings, “Today” has 6 million viewers vs. “GMA’s” 5.2 million. In the 25- to 54-year-old demographic, the standard for advertisers buying news shows, “Today” was watched by 2.9 million people while “GMA” was watched by 2.4 million.
Media buyers believe the show might stumble a bit, but that the franchise is strong enough to hold up despite the defection. “The legacy of the show is bigger than she is, and I’m a huge fan of Katie. Still, the show can survive without her,” said Andy Donchin, senior VP-national broadcast, Carat. “But they’d have to get their legs on solid ground. ... At first there may be some fall off as people reevaluate what they watch.”
Shari Ann Brill, VP-director of programming, Carat, agrees. “The show is so well produced that many likely contenders can step in and be fine. It’s been No. 1 for a long time and it’s weathered anchor shifts before.”
NBC has been wooing Meredith Vieira of ABC’s “The View” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Despite news reports out this morning that a deal is nearly done for her to sign a $40 million contract, NBC officially said that it had no official comment.
Ms. Couric joined NBC News in 1989 as deputy Pentagon reporter. She began work on “Today” in June 1990 as its first national correspondent, which included two stints covering the Gulf War. She then served as substitute co-anchor with Bryant Gumbel in February 1991 until taking over the job permanently 15 years ago today.