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Less than three years after joining ABC in a lucrative and wide-ranging deal that included a daytime talk show and a role at ABC News, Katie Couric is negotiating an exit package, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The move comes as Couric is close to finalizing an extensive deal with Internet giant Yahoo, according to multiple sources.
Couric’s daytime talk show is in its second and almost certainly final season on ABC. She will complete the season and sources at Disney-ABC insist that a decision about the future of Katie will not be made until sometime in December after executives get a look at the November sweeps ratings.
The original deal — said to be worth $40 million — encompassed two seasons of the daytime talk show and three years at ABC News; it is standard for news contracts to be three years. It’s unclear how much the news division is paying toward Couric’s contract or how much she’ll walk away with in an early exit.
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Couric’s Disney-ABC deal was greeted with much fanfare a couple of years ago thanks to a colossal salary and her close association with rival NBC News. The battle between ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today was at a fever pitch. And Couric’s April 2012 stint filling in for Robin Roberts on GMA spurred copious headlines and a counter punch from Today that included recruiting Sarah Palin to help anchor the NBC program. But lately, Couric has been used sparingly at ABC News.
ABC News declined comment. But an executive told THR: “Katie is an incredible journalist and this was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. Thanks to the powerful association between ABC News and Yahoo we know that Katie will continue to work closely with us and welcome her on our air anytime.”
There has been widespread speculation that Couric might rejoin Jeff Zucker at CNN; Zucker helped to launch Katie as the show’s executive producer but left during the first season to run CNN Worldwide. Yet multiple sources tell THR that the split caused tension between the two, who have had a longstanding relationship dating back to their time together on Today. Sources close to Zucker say he has had no conversations with Couric about coming to CNN.
Meanwhile, Couric is said to have been personally wooed by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who has already lured New York Times tech columnist David Pogue in an effort to pump up the Internet giant’s media presence. Couric earlier this year bowed a commentary feature on Yahoo News called Katie’s Take, which has mostly been repurposed material from her talk show. (ABC News and Yahoo have had a news sharing partnership since 2011.) But the new Yahoo deal, say sources, would be a much more high-profile endeavor with Couric hosting a newsmaker interview program that would be featured on the site’s highly trafficked home page.
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