On Eve of ABC Announcement, Details of Negotiations Between Katie Couric and Networks Emerge

By Alex Weprin 

Later today, ABC is expected to announce a deal with former “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric. The centerpiece will be a syndicated program–in which Couric owns a stake–as well as a presence on the ABC News platforms, both before her show debuts and on an ongoing basis.

This morning the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both have stories highlighting the pitches that were given to Couric, and what went into choosing ABC as the final suitor.

The Times leads with an amusing anecdote: when the NBC executives were meeting with Couric at a New York hotel, the meeting room next door was occupied by former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and former Vice President Al Gore, whow ere announcing Olbermann’s hire on Current TV:


As they walked in, both Ms. Couric and Mr. Berger were struck by how unsettled the NBC team appeared. They soon learned why.

The NBC executives had just bumped into Al Gore, the former vice president, who was there to announce the hiring of Keith Olbermann for his cable channel, Current TV.

Mr. Olbermann, the one-time star of MSNBC, had left the network acrimoniously just two weeks earlier, and he and the Current retinue were in the meeting room directly next to the one NBC had rented for the Couric negotiations.

“It was awkward,” a senior NBC executive said.

The WSJ highlights NBC’s pitch to Couric (Reg. required):

During a meeting at the St. Regis hotel in Manhattan in early February, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke presented the former “Today” show host with a sentimental highlight reel of her greatest moments at NBC, people familiar with the matter said. NBC News President Steve Capus and other executives joined the effort to lure her back to the network as she was ending a nearly five-year anchor stint on CBS Corp.’s “CBS Evening News.”

In an interview with the Times, Couric only mentions one ABC News program by name… and it may not be the one most people think of:

Ms. Couric says she wants to build the show around conversations with newsmakers — she mentioned Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga. Ideally, she said, her work for ABC News would include opportunities to conduct interviews on “Nightline” and perhaps some political reporting.

“I just want to be a utility player,” she added.

Elsewhere, in The Hollywood Reporter, Andrew Tyndall looks at the end of Couric’s run on CBS:

Yet Couric’s self-image as an anchor was clearly at odds with the news agenda. Her five-minute summary of her tenure did not include a single mention of the biggest event of the past five years: the Great Recession. No mention of the financial crisis of 2008, the real estate bubble or double-digit unemployment.

Instead, she portrayed the anchor’s job as a series of one-on-ones with the powerful (George W. Bush, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) or the fleetingly famous (Valerie Plame, Chesley Sullenberger) or the celebrated (Michael J. Fox, Alex Rodriguez). For field reporting, she showed herself in a helicopter flying over wildfires and oil spills, comforting an orphan in Haiti, watching a royal kiss outside Buckingham Palace.