December 8, 2005

Couric staying put at NBC, denies CBS anchor talk

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Katie Couric on Thursday
doused persistent rumors that she plans to jump NBC's "Today"
to anchor the "CBS Evening News" -- or go anywhere else, for
that matter. At least for the time being.

Couric and the rest of the "Today" crew conducted a
conference call with reporters to celebrate the morning show's
10 years at the top. But as rumors persist that CBS has been
doing some heavy-duty wooing to bring Couric to the Tiffany
Network, Couric stepped in quickly during the call to make sure
the call would be more about "Today" than her future.

"There's been a lot of things out there; I don't know where
people are getting them, but I wanted to let you all know that
so we didn't have to play games with this call, because there's
really nothing to announce and nothing to report," Couric said.

She declined to address reports that, at CBS, she would
become the anchor as well as get a starring role on "60
Minutes." Her current contract ends in May, and it's likely
that whichever she decides upon will have to pay upward of $15
million-$20 million a year for five to seven years.

"I know there's a great deal of speculation, and while I
appreciate the interest, kind of, my contract ends in May and
I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do," Couric said.
"I'm fortunate to have a couple of opportunities to think long
and hard about."

Despite a sometimes tumultuous time at the top, "Today" has
been there -- with most of the current on-air crew -- most of
that decade. But it has been a revolving door of executive
producers who have paid the price for a strong challenge by
ABC's "Good Morning America" as well as other on- and off-air
doings. "Good Morning America," with co-hosts Diane Sawyer and
Charles Gibson, had strong months earlier this year but has
been unable to pass "Today."

Couric and her co-host, Matt Lauer, credited executive
producer Jim Bell with providing the hosts some time to
maintain chemistry as well as doing more hard news.

"I think the content has gotten better. I think for a while
there we were emulating the competition," Couric said. She said
that she felt that, for a while, "Today" was doing Laci
Peterson and Michael Jackson stories "because, quite frankly,
it was the easiest thing to do."

Al Roker agreed: "For a while, I think we were reacting
more to what people were doing, and we forgot that we lead and
others follow us. We have gone back, under Jim, and reasserted
our leadership, and I think you'll find other people are
following us."

Lauer said that when Bell arrived in April, he took the
time to learn the show and the staff. In looking at tapes,
Lauer said, he discovered something that he changed quickly.

"It had become a little too scheduled, and he took a step
to allow us to breathe," Lauer said.

Couric and Lauer didn't seem as thrilled about another one
of their duties: hosting NBC's coverage of the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Neither Lauer nor Couric
had been told that one of the floats had been involved in an
accident that injured spectators; NBC aired file footage of the

While Lauer said that a lot more was made of it than he
felt should have been, Couric said that the situation had been

"I think it would have been helpful for us to be more
informed. We weren't aware that the video they were using was a
year old until after the broadcast," Couric said.

She added: "We might have second thoughts about doing it
again. It puts us into an awkward situation."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter