BUSINESS: Couric Flounders

CBS, besides defending a $70 million lawsuit over the dismissal of its last Evening News anchor, is now pondering dumping Katie Couric, who has failed to earn her own $75 million paycheck.
For Couric, this turned out to be a bad case of hubris: she assumed that, having been a commercial success in morning TV, she could switch to the different format and audience of evening news and not only succeed but turn around a floundering, scandal-tarred news division. It didn’t happen; not only did she lose one of her principal assets along the way (Couric’s chipper demeanor always went over well with the morning-TV crowd), but once CBS made the decision to stay a nominally straight news outlet rather than becoming an openly left-leaning news source, Couric was always the worst possible person to try to correct CBS News’ decades-long reputation as the most liberal news source on TV.
Clearly, CBS should have listened to me when I suggested back in December 2004 that they hire CNN’s Erica Hill instead. Hill’s career has only headed up since then; Headline News ended up rebranding her prime-time shift as “Prime News with Erica Hill,” and more recently she moved to the mother network to pair with Anderson Cooper on one of CNN’s two most prominent news shows (the other being The Lou Dobbs Really Hates Foreigners Hour). Hill probably wouldn’t have singlehandedly turned around CBS overnight either, but hiring a younger, lower-key and undoubtedly less expensive anchor would have kept costs and expectations lower, and signalled a commitment to rebuilding the brand from scratch rather than trying to poach from NBC. Instead, CBS is now reduced to denying reports that it’s going to outsource newsgathering to … CNN.

2 thoughts on “BUSINESS: Couric Flounders”

  1. I only rarely watch the evening news anyway, but while I didn’t like to watch Dan Rather, and also don’t watch Couric, I thought CBS’s news show was the most watchable of the three while Bob Schieffer was anchoring it. I guess I can see why CBS didn’t see him as a long-term solution, but I think he was giving them at least equal ratings for a lot smaller price.

  2. Interesting thing about the Geraghty link was that someone from MSNBC could’ve just as well read that entry and decided to do just that because shortly thereafter it went from left-leaning cable news channel to the “Hillary is too conservative” style of Olbermanism (known on planet earth as “unprofessional monnbattery”).

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