NEW YORK -- Ending weeks of speculation about the future of her broadcast career, Katie Couric announced Tuesday that she is leaving the anchor desk at CBS.
"I have decided to step down from the 'CBS Evening News,'" Couric told PEOPLE exclusively. "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."
Many in the grapevine thought Couric wouldn't make her announcement until her anchoring coverage of this Friday's Royal Wedding was over. But it was network television's worst kept secret. Couric may take on the role of hosting a new syndicated talk show in the wake of superstar Oprah Winfrey's departure from the daily scene this fall.
"I am looking at a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling," Couric, 54, told PEOPLE about her future plans. She says other details, including when and where any new show will air, are "still being discussed."
The Associated Press reported three weeks ago that Couric's tenure as CBS anchor would end just short of five years in the job. Her contract expires June 4th.
"There's a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric's time at evening news," said CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair. "CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter."
CBS has not set an exit date but is expected to appoint Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" as her successor as early as next week.
Couric was unable to move the "CBS Evening News" out of third place in the ratings.
.Back in 2006, as she made the move from TODAY to CBS, Couric said: "Sometimes I think change is a good thing. Although it may be terrifying to get out of your comfort zone, it's very exciting to start a new chapter in your life."
Some critics at the time thought her background was not focused enough on hard news for her to make a successful jump to an evening newscast, but others accused those critics of sexism.
Couric was the first solo female anchor of a weekday evening news program on one of the three major broadcast networks. Diane Sawyer followed suit, and will soon be the only female solo anchor of a major network broadcast, for ABC News.
Couric began her career at the ABC bureau in Washington, then moved to CNN and other news jobs before joining NBC News in 1989 as Deputy Pentagon Correspondent.