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Katie Couric made official what the rest of the industry already knew: She is leaving her evening news anchor chair.
In what turned out to be one of the worst-kept secrets in television, the anchor said Tuesday that she will depart after five years at CBS.
“I have decided to step down from the CBS Evening News,” Couric told People magazine. “I’m really proud of the talented team on the CBS Evening News and the award-winning work we’ve been able to do in the past five years in addition to the reporting I’ve done for 60 Minutes and CBS’ Sunday Morning. In making the decision to move on, I know the Evening News will be in great hands, but I am excited about the future.”
“There’s a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric’s time at Evening News,” a network spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. “CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter.”
60 Minutes veteran Scott Pelley is expected to replace her, another move that has been widely speculated since 60 boss Jeff Fager took the reins at Evening News earlier this year. (According to one source with knowledge of the network’s plans, the latter will likely be announced next week.)
When Couric made the announcement more than half a decade ago that she’d be leaving her longtime perch at NBC’s Today, the opportunity — particularly as the first solo female anchor — seemed to offer a combination of prestige and promise. But any plan to reinvent the format for a generation that gets its news on a minute-by-minute basis on the Internet quickly proved infeasible, and ratings continued to plummet. In an interview with The New York Times magazine last month, Couric acknowledged that if she had it to do all over again, she would have “given people what they were used to: a traditional newscast.”
While Couric remains coy about what’s next, sources close to her say she will pursue a daytime talk show slated for a fall 2012 launch, along with a potential production shingle, a portal relationship and other Web offerings. ABC, NBC and current home CBS — all of which can offer some sort of news component — remain potential players in the fight for Couric’s midday fare. RELATED: Katie Couric’s Daytime Dream Will Be Harder Than It Seems.
Whether strategic or not, she has remained in touch with the tastes of a female-leaning daytime audience by padding her résumé with side projects including a Glamour column, an often-celebrity-focused Web show and a guest gig on Fox’s primetime juggernaut Glee. But the woman who has earned $15 million a year at the third-place news network will have her work cut out for her in daytime as well, thanks to a lofty price tag, crowded landscape and splintering audience.
Meanwhile, Pelley is poised to get his shot at the 6:30 p.m. slot, where the day’s news is aggregated and read for older-skewing viewers. Unlike the 60 Minutes format, where he and his colleagues have had the funds and flexibility to deep dive into meatier topics, the Evening News role comes with hefty time — and thus content — constraints. Although revitalizing the format in any significant way seems unlikely, many insiders argue Pelley’s traditional style is a better fit for the graying Evening News audience.
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