After spending the last couple of weeks trying to get rid of its wild sitcom star Charlie Sheen, top CBS brass will spend the next few trying to keep in the fold its news star Katie Couric. The pending June 4 end of Couric’s contract with the Eye network has launched a flurry of speculation about her future similar to the frenzy surrounding her switch from NBC to CBS five years ago. Back then, Couric opted for the new experience of becoming the first solo female anchor of an evening newscast on a broadcast network over her cushy job at NBC’s top-rated morning program the Today show. Sources indicate that Couric is once again leaning towards a change, and this time it involves her following in Oprah Winfrey’s footsteps as producer and host of her own syndicated talk show. What she is bringing to the table is two decades of experience as an anchor and interviewer, a likable persona and a very strong online presence. What she is looking for is a solid syndication partner. But also key for her is to align with a company that would provide her with opportunities to work between June — when her current contract with CBS News expires — and September 2012, when her potential syndication show would premiere. According to sources, Couric has no intention of sitting on the sidelines for a year and a half, so her new arrangement must accommodate for that.
While there have been overtures from multiple suitors, word is official offers are expected to start coming in shortly, with Couric likely to make her decision in the next 4-5 weeks. With a well-established syndication division and several potential interim outlets for Couric, including newsmagazine 60 Minutes, where she is currently a contributor, CBS is said to be preparing an extensive package to present to Couric. NBC also is considered a strong contender given Couric’s long history there, with reports also listing Warner Bros.-CNN and ABC as possibilities. In making her decision, Couric is relying on the advice of several old friends, including former Today executive producer/NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker and former NBC syndication chief Ed Wilson, who could potentially be involved in a syndicated show hosted and produced by Couric. The attention on Couric and her future is certain to drum up interest for her new book, The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives, which will be published April 12, around the time she is expected to make her decision.