December 2, 2005

CBS tries to lure Couric from NBC’s ‘Today’-report

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - CBS is trying to change the face of
network news by luring Katie Couric, co-host of NBC's top-rated
morning show "Today," to the evening news anchor seat vacated
by Dan Rather, the Los Angeles Times said on Friday.

Citing senior editorial staffers at both networks, the
Times said newly installed CBS News President Sean McManus had
determinedly wooed Couric in recent weeks to take over as
permanent anchor of the CBS Evening News and that Couric was
seriously considering such a move.

CBS and NBC both declined comment on the story. Media
reports began circulating in January that CBS executives had
made overtures to Couric to lure her away from NBC to the CBS
Evening News desk.

Taking Rather's spot would make Couric the first woman
named as the sole permanent anchor of a major network evening
newscast, unless ABC's Elizabeth Vargas beats her to the punch.
Vargas, a "20/20," host, has filled in on a regular basis for
the late Peter Jennings at ABC's World News Tonight and is
regarded as a candidate to permanently replace him.

Connie Chung co-anchored the CBS Evening News with Rather
for about 18 months in the 1990s, and Barbara Walters co-hosted
ABC's newscast with Harry Reasoner for two years in the 1970s.

Veteran correspondent Bob Schieffer has served as temporary
CBS News anchor since Rather stepped down in March, six months
after coming under fire for a botched "60 Minutes II" report on
President George W. Bush's military record.

Last month, McManus named "60 Minutes" veteran Rome Hartman
as executive producer of the CBS Evening News, which has long
trailed NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight in the


Leslie Moonves, chairman of CBS and co-president of parent
company Viacom Inc., has repeatedly expressed eagerness to
revamp the Evening News to lure younger viewers and boost

Couric, who turns 49 next month, has been co-anchor of
"Today" since 1991, including the show's decade-long reign at
No. 1 that has made the program one of the most important
assets at NBC, a unit of General Electric Co .

"Today" airs three hours a day, Monday through Friday, for
a total of 780 hours of programing a year, more than any other
show on NBC, and reportedly earns more than $250 million a year
for the network.

NBC News President Steve Capus told the Times that
speculation about Couric's next step was "premature."

"I don't think she's decided what to do," he was quoted as
saying. "We're still sitting here with many months to go before
this is going to be in front of us."

One network insider told Reuters that Couric was barred
from entering formal negotiations with another network until
her NBC contract expires in May.

Keeping Couric in place is widely seen as crucial to
efforts by "Today" to hold its own against competition from
ABC's "Good Morning America," which narrowed the ratings gap
between the two shows earlier this year. ABC is a unit of the
Walt Disney Co .

NBC already is struggling to rebuild its prime-time
schedule after losing two popular sitcoms, "Friends" and
Frasier," last year, falling to third place in ratings for its
target audience.

Couric last renewed her contract with NBC in December 2001,
signing a 4 1/2-year deal that sources said was worth about $60
million, one of the most lucrative in U.S. television.