The New York Post is reporting that Norah O’Donnell is “in danger of losing the top spot at CBS Evening News.”
The Post’s Alexandra Steigrad writes: “The 47-year-old news anchor—who muscled her way into the evening slot in 2019 as she fled a reportedly strained relationship with co-host Gayle King on CBS This Morning—now stands vulnerable to the network’s bean counters as her ratings have stayed stubbornly stuck in third place, according to sources close to the situation.”
The story cites “network insiders” pointing to O’Donnell’s three-year, $24 million contract that’s slated to expire next spring, and CBS News wanting to cut costs as additional reasons for her possible removal, adding, “CBS shelled out millions to move the evening broadcast to Washington, D.C., from New York City to accommodate O’Donnell and her husband, chef Geoff Tracy, and their three children.”
CBS News president and co-head Neeraj Khemlani shot down the report of a potential move or anchor shakeup, telling The Post: “There are no plans to move the Evening News from Washington. Norah’s presence in Washington has elevated the CBS Evening News’ coverage on all fronts—politics, breaking news, to big interviews including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen just last week. Her reporting on the military and domestic abuse has won awards and changed policies in Washington. And in addition to making headlines, the program is gaining audience share.”
CBS Evening News, while mired in a third place, has actually lost a smaller percentage of its audience (year over year) than its ABC and NBC competition have, meaning the newscast has indeed gained a bit of evening news audience share despite seeing a decline in the ratings.
The Post cites additional sources saying that Khemlani “has hired management consultants to find ways to trim fat as parent company ViacomCBS continues to digest the 2019 merger of CBS and Viacom, and potentially make the company more attractive for a sale,” and that Khemlani may slash O’Donnell’s pay as he pushes her out of the anchor’s chair and gives her a bigger role than she already has on 60 Minutes. (This is similar to what happened to Scott Pelley, who was given a more significant role on 60 Minutes after being moved out of the Evening News anchor chair).
So, if there is any semblance of truth to this report, who could replace O’Donnell in the anchor chair? According to the Post, perhaps there could be another morning-to-evening transition, with CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil taking the reins. (He makes $6 million less per year than O’Donnell.)
The Post adds:
MSNBC’s Brian Williams’ contract is up this year, but sources say his salary, which has been rumored to be over $10 million, is too much for CBS to pay. Other candidates who have been bandied about include 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker and Today co-anchor Craig Melvin, according to a report from Insider last month.
A CBS spokeswoman shot down the Post’s speculation: “We have already made clear that none of those individuals listed from outside of CBS are moving into anchor roles here, and Bill Whitaker and Tony Dokoupil already have the best jobs in television.”