ABC Said to Discuss $20 Million Advance to Couric for Show

Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ABC is in talks to advance Katie Couric $20 million to create an afternoon talk show and leave CBS, said two people with knowledge of the offer.

Couric will step down as CBS news anchor on June 5 and has been discussing a syndicated show with outlets including her current network. CBS Corp. (CBS), which ended talks with Couric, has the right to match any offer until she leaves, said three people who aren’t authorized to speak publicly. ABC won’t make a formal offer to Couric while she’s still under contract.

ABC’s backing would allow Couric to create a syndicated show starting in September 2012, two people said. She would produce it with former NBC Universal Chief Executive Officer Jeff Zucker, who would be executive producer, they said. Prior to the talk show’s debut, Couric would work on special news projects for ABC and may appear on other news programs.

The $20 million would be an advance against future syndication revenue for the show, and would give Zucker and Couric startup funds to hire staff, the people said.

“Katie has not made a decision about her future,” said Matthew Hiltzik, Couric’s public relations representative. Kevin Brockman, an ABC spokesman, declined to comment, as did Sonya McNair, a spokeswoman for CBS News.

The $20 million figure was reported earlier by the website TMZ.com.

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.

‘60 Minutes’

CBS, based in New York, named “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley to succeed Couric. It remains possible that CBS, which has ended talks for a syndicated show with Couric, may offer her a similar deal to the one on the table with ABC, according to the people.

“CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley” begins June 6, CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager and President David Rhodes said on May 3.

Couric, 54, who has been CBS’s anchor for five years, told People magazine on April 26 that she would leave her post as anchor.

Ratings at “CBS Evening News” declined during Couric’s tenure, falling to an all-time low in total viewers with an average of 4.89 million during the week of Aug. 24, 2010, according to TVNewser.

CBS, controlled by Sumner Redstone, fell 51 cents to $26.70 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 40 percent this year. Disney, based in Burbank, California, climbed 7 cents to $42.69 and has risen 14 percent year-to-date.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ronald Grover in Los Angeles at rgrover5@bloomberg.net; 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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