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Charlie Toft

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Charlie Toft used to win awards for book criticism, but decided that reading was too much work. As a TV writer, his specialty is an encyclopedic and possibly unhealthy knowledge of American Idol.

Katie Couric: The New Oprah?

Would Walter Cronkite have considered giving up his lead anchor status to do a talk show? Tom Brokaw? Dan Rather? Certainly not, but in an era where folks are updated on the headlines all day long thanks to cable, Facebook, and Twitter, the evening news has nowhere near the reach it once had. And that loss of prestige might lead Katie Couric to try something new.

Couric’s initial contract with CBS is nearing an end, and even though she has had the third-rated newscast practically since she took over in 2006, the network is eager to keep her around. But Broadcasting & Cable reports that several syndicators are preparing to pitch her on doing a daytime talk show instead. Oprah Winfrey’s impending departure is leaving a huge hole in the daytime arena, and Couric might be the only person with the name recognition to come close to filling it.

The thinking is that Couric’s long tenure on Today gives her experience with the sorts of topics that daytime shows cover, and she’s not above the sort of personal sharing that Oprah turned into an art form. Today was the biggest name in morning TV when Couric was there (as it remains), and that may be more relevant to gauging her potential on a talk show than her ratings struggles anchoring a hard news show at CBS.

Couric currently makes $15 million a year at CBS, but while the B&C sources estimate that she wouldn’t earn as much up front at the helm of a talk show, she might be able to make that up, and much more so, if she has an ownership stake and her program turned out to be a success (example: Oprah’s multiple appearances on the Forbes 400). Couric is said to be happy with her current job, and there’s something to be said for the honor of sitting in the Cronkite chair. But there’s nothing wrong with leaking reports of a wandering eye as part of the contract negotiation process.

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