Katie Couric to CNN? Does Anyone Care?

Despite early rumors that she would be fired when she proved not to be worth $16 million a year, Katie Couric has hung on as anchor at CBS. But her contract's up in May and CNN seems to be the highest bidder. If not the only bidder.

Despite early rumors that she would be fired when she proved not to be worth $16 million a year, Katie Couric has hung on as anchor at CBS. But her contract’s up in May and CNN seems to be the highest bidder. If not the only bidder.

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 is almost certainly right.  Indeed, I’ll be quite shocked if any of the Big 3 networks have a nightly newscast, much less a star anchor, a decade from now.   They’re relics of a fading past, watched mostly by senior citizens who have been in the habit for decades.

FILED UNDER: Media, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    “They’re relics of a fading past, watched mostly by senior citizens who have been in the habit for decades.”

    You’ll be a senior citizen in about 20 years Jim. It will go faster than you think. I have no interest in Couric who should have been left on her early morning couch, but you’re being a bit too pessimistic about network news I think. Outside of a narrow demographic of masochists who wants to be subjected to the ranting of cable news? Maybe not $16 million deals but the evening news is always going to be around and there will be a place for credible anchors. After all news anchors in the sixties and seventies weren’t being paid 16 million or its equivalent. These mega deals are a feature of the past 25 years really.




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  2. Boyd says:

    Okay, I’ll accept the “habit for decades” part, but your accusation of being a senior citizen is just beyond the pale!

    Now, where did I leave my walker…?




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  3. James Joyner says:

    Oh, I’m not insulting seniors. I’m just stating the demographics of the business. People much younger than me simply have no history of watching a nightly newscast. I grew up with the habit and continued it well into my 30s.

    Cable is taking away some of the audience, of course, but not because of head-to-head competition. Rather, cable is on whenever you have the inclination to watch. That’s our lifestyle: People don’t want appointment viewing.

    My guess is that, within a very few years, people will be getting their news — including video — off the Web. The networks will likely continue to produce it. But they won’t have a newscast for a fixed half hour.




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  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    “My guess is that, within a very few years, people will be getting their news — including video — off the Web.”

    Jim, I get most of my news off the web. I read my newspapers (NYT, WSJ, FT) on the web. None of this stops me regularly watching the evening news. Ah you say but you’re an old fogy doing it out of habit which may be true but in that case why do I observe exactly the same habits with my kid who are in their early/mid thirties. Ah you say, they are young fogies.




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  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The networks will likely continue to produce it. But they won’t have a newscast for a fixed half hour.”

    I will agree we could easily dispense with these warm hearted stories of country folk which seem to have increasingly replaced hard news.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    I will agree we could easily dispense with these warm hearted stories of country folk which seem to have increasingly replaced hard news.

    One of many reasons I quit watching: Too much fluff, too little substance. But we’re outliers. Fluff is much more interesting to most people. And that’s okay! But I’m not the target audience.




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  7. Julian Sanchez says:

    A small data point in Jim’s favor: my friends are mostly late-20s/early-30s DC geeks with a strong interest in news, but I can’t think of a single one who *ever* watches an evening network newscast, let alone watches it regularly. The only time in the past 15 years I can recall so much as glimpsing one is… When home visiting my father (65) for the holidays.




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  8. michael reynolds says:

    I am a fogie who had a lifelong habit of watching the evening news. But I break habits easily. For some time after the evening news shows stopped being useful as sources of news they performed a sort of meta function — I’d watch to see what other people were watching.

    Now they don’t even do that.

    James is right that the days of appointment viewing are over. Media now accommodates our individual schedules — 24 hour cable, time-shifting with DVR, and increasingly, on-demand over the web. I find myself impatient that everything isn’t available everywhere all the time. (There are still some limits on shows that can be downloaded, as well as irritating downloading speed limits.)

    This is just the latest phase in a really amazing historical shift. We are entering a world where all data will be available all the time, everywhere. The implications for society — particularly in education — have only just begun to be felt.

    I can now ask my phone to recommend a good steak restaurant near my current location. The phone recognizes my spoken words, spots my location, checks it against restaurant reviews near that location, and has an answer with accompanying maps, within 30 seconds. That app, by the way, is free.




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  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    “James is right that the days of appointment viewing are over.”

    Well 25 million people are still watching every night. And for those that are still interested in local and national news that hour remains one of the main reference points




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  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    “I can now ask my phone to recommend a good steak restaurant near my current location.”

    As best I recall in the golden age of network news Uncle Walter didn’t recommend steak restaurants.




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  11. michael reynolds says:

    Joe:

    If he had I’d absolutely have gone. Cronkite struck me as a guy who might enjoy a good steak, a whiskey and a cigar.




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  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    ” Cronkite struck me as a guy who might enjoy a good steak, a whiskey and a cigar.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Boats, good food and drink, and Vienna.




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