The drumbeats are sounding louder at CBS that changes are on the way at the "Evening News." No longer the national newscast of record.. the 5:30pm network newscasts (once the domain of legends like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, and in more recent times.. Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings) have dropped from nightly totals of 55 million viewers, to about 22 million viewers. And that's for all 3 networks. "American Idol" draws 25 million viewers on one good night. The pie is sliced up this way: NBC and ABC, just over 8 million viewers each, and CBS (meaning Katie Couric).. about 5.3 million viewers. At her salary, she was supposed to reach and surpass that 8 million viewer mark by now.. 18 months into her term at the desk.
CBS execs are wondering whether their 5-year, $75 million dollar investment in Ms. Couric has already fizzled. CBS counts on strong network affiliates like WIBW to use their very high local ratings to help the network newscast. Not the other way around. Speculation is still strong that Katie Couric will not be on the air at 5:30 after our next President is inaugurated. There could be a lucrative gig at "60 MINUTES" waiting for her.. still at her current $15 million dollar per year salary.. much higher than the esteemed correspondents over there.
It's been fascinating listening to journalism warhorses like Roger Mudd and Bob Schieffer chatting on the radio this week about the "Couric question." Bob is not interested in coming back. Colleagues have dropped names like Scott Pelley, or Anderson Cooper of CNN. I personally like Russ Mitchell a lot on the CBS weekend evening news. Who do you like best? And if that's Katie Couric, you'd better let us know.. soon. RH