Couric to Exit ‘CBS Evening News’ as New Show Talks Continue

Katie Couric said she is stepping down as anchor of “CBS Evening News,” her spokesman confirmed, as the television reporter considers new opportunities.

Couric’s comments to People magazine, which reported her departure earlier, are accurate, Matthew Hiltzik, her spokesman, said today. Couric, 54, is expected to make a decision in May about where she will appear next, he said.

“I have decided to step down,” Couric said to People magazine. “In making the decision to move on, I know the Evening News will be in great hands, but I am excited about the future.”

Where and when a new Couric program will air is still being discussed, she told People. Her contract with CBS ends June 4. NBC and ABC are discussing talk shows with Couric that would start in 2012, an executive with knowledge of the talks told Bloomberg. ABC, part of Walt Disney Co. (DIS), made a late run at Couric, two people said. The anchor and ABC News President Ben Sherwood met at least once for lunch to discuss the move, one person said. The people, who spoke yesterday, declined to be named because the matter is private.

“I am looking at a format that will allow me to engage in more multi-dimensional storytelling,” Couric told People.

“There’s a lot to be proud of during Katie Couric’s time at Evening News," said Kelli Hayward, a CBS News spokeswoman, in an e-mail. "CBS News, like Katie herself, is looking forward to the next chapter.”

Scott Pelley

Scott Pelley, a correspondent on “60 Minutes,” will take over for Couric as CBS anchor, one of the people said yesterday. Prior to joining “60 Minutes,” he was CBS News’ chief White House correspondent.

Couric is being advised by Jeff Zucker, former chief executive officer of NBC Universal and previously her producer at NBC’s “Today” show. Neither ABC nor NBC would offer her an evening anchor role, one person said. She would likely work on specials, including the upcoming presidential elections.

The New York Times reported yesterday that CBS would announce Couric’s departure this week. The newspaper said on April 5 that NBC had offered her a syndicated talk show.

’60 Minutes’

CBS could still strike a deal to keep Couric in a role other than news anchor, said two people with knowledge of the situation who declined to be named because the matter is private. That may include reporting for “60 Minutes” and anchoring a syndicated talk show, according to one person familiar with the situation. CBS executives are interviewing candidates to be the executive producer of Pelley’s newscast, one person said.

Couric, the former “Today” show host, receives $13 million to $15 million a year under a five-year deal with CBS that started in 2006, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

Ratings at “CBS Evening News” have declined during Couric’s tenure and averaged 5.6 million viewers per night during the past five weeks, according to Nielsen Co. data provided yesterday by Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media Inc. in New York. “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” averaged 8.8 million viewers and ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” averaged 7.9 million.

CBS fell 3 cents to $24.66 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 30 percent this year. Disney climbed 40 cents to $42.33 and has climbed 13 percent this year.

Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), which controls NBC, rose 30 cents to $25.59 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The stock has increased 16.5 percent this year.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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