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Katie Couric Bolts to Yahoo

ABC News personality will serve as Internet giant’s global anchor

Confirming what may have been the worst-kept secret in recent memory, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer on Monday officially announced that Katie Couric is joining the company as global anchor.

In a Yahoo Tumblr post titled “Welcome aboard, Katie. Anchors aweigh!,” Mayer said that Couric would become “the face of Yahoo News” beginning in early 2014. The Yahoo chief went on to say that she has “always respected Katie for her thoughtful, charismatic approach to journalism,” adding that Couric is “dynamic, savvy and has [an admirable] way of connecting with viewers.”

News of Yahoo's interest in Couric was first reported by Allthingsd.com over the summer.

While her contractual obligation to ABC News would appear to be severed, Couric will continue to host her syndicated chat show, Katie, through July 2014. Given the show’s disappointing ratings and staggering budget, Katie is all but certain to be canceled after this, its second season.

(Conveniently enough, ABC News does have a formal association with Yahoo, which syndicates a fair amount of the news organization’s content. The relationship has been a cozy one; Couric has hosted the ABCNews.com-Yahoo Web series “Katie’s Take” since 2012.)

“It’s very exciting to be a part of a leading company at the intersection of content and technology,” said Couric, by way of announcing the deal. “I have great admiration for Marissa Mayer and her team and their commitment to bringing news, entertainment and information to the Yahoo community across multiple platforms. Joining Yahoo offers a tremendous opportunity to reach people all around the world in the way that they’re using and consuming media today.”

While Couric has had previous experience as the host of an online interview series—she helmed @katiecouric at the tail end of her CBS Evening News gig and hosted several live post-debate series during the 2008 Presidential race—the Yahoo deal is significant inasmuch as it would appear to herald a formal shift from TV to the Web for the longtime anchor.

As much as online streaming represents the future of video, that future remains frustratingly out of reach. Per eMarketer, online video in 2013 is on track to take in some $4.12 billion in total media spend—about 6 percent of the $66.4 billion TV will scare up this year. 

Meanwhile, Yahoo’s share of overall digital ad spend isn’t growing anywhere near as quickly as are Google and Facebook. According to eMarketer estimates, Yahoo’s net ad revenue in 2013 is on track to grow 3 percent to $3.25 billion, while Google is expected to soar 15 percent to $17.4 billion and Facebook is on pace to soar 26 percent to $2.99 billion.

Yahoo's video audience is a potentially large one for Couric to tap; the company's properties in aggregate reach nearly 45 million unique viewers in the U.S., per comScore.

Naturally, Couric is being well compensated for the move (her Katie gig alone was worth some $10 million per year), and landing her is another glossy feather in Mayer’s cap. The Yahoo boss has made a number of high-profile acquisitions in recent weeks, poaching New York Times tech writer David Pogue and veteran political reporter Matt Bai.

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