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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Katie's Gone: All Bets Are Off

5

April

Today show host Katie Couric finally confirmed this morning what was rumored for months, that' she's leaving the show and heading for CBS, to serve as lead news anchor, manaing editor of the CBS Evening News and a correpsodent on 60 Minutes. She also makes history as the first female to serve as the sole top news anchor in network television.

"SOMETIMES I THINK CHANGE IS A GOOD THING. ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE TERRIFYING TO GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE, IT'S ALSO EXCITING TO START A NEW CHAPTER IN YOUR LIFE.SO FOR NOW, IT'S NOT GOODBYE - AT LEAST NOT YET. BUT A HEARTFELT THANK YOU FOR 15 GREAT YEARS."

The news was confirmed in dueling press releases later this morning from NBC and CBS. Couric's contract expires in May, she won't debut on CBS until September, and -- if the New york Times is to be believed -- it's all but certain that The View's Meredith Viera will take Couric's chair when she leaves NBC.

So what's left to talk about? Just a few conclusions:

Conclusion 1: CBS' Moonves Chose a Celebrity Game Changer Over a Slow Rebuild

What CBS News needed was what it got in Bob Schieffer: a traditional news anchor who could build morale, shore up the network's journalism and convince viewers that a post-Memogate CBS could still be trusted to be a news player. Turns out, he succeeded more than anyone expected him to, which means a Couric move to CBS will strand the audience which may have come to enojy his approach.

And though many critics have taken potshots at Moonves -- who clearly doesn't get TV news like he gets TV entertainment -- he didn't have many options. CBS' bench is famously depleted of names; by the time he spent the years required to develop a non-star into the lead anchor role, network TV news might not exist at all.

Instead, he ponied up enough cash and prestige for Couric to throw the network news game into a tizzy for at least a year -- as it will likely take that long for Couric's debut ratings spike to even out in the glacial environment of TV news.

Conclusion 2: Couric's Move Makes Female Domination of the News Business Official

Already, Couric was the highest-paid woman in the TV news business. She, Barbara Walters and ABC's Diane Sawyer were also, arguably, the most powerful journalists on TV for their salaries and ratings muscle. Now, Couric makes it official by taking a job always symbolically held -- at least in part -- by a man.

The big question now, how will CBS change its news program to fit her personality? By virtue of her salary and ubiquity, Couric becomes the 800-pound gorrilla of the news division. Will she shed the softer interviews and feature pieces which made her a star on Today? Or will she craft a new vision for a network newscast which combines celebrity, soft news and anchor accessibility in a way we've never seen before?

Conclusion 3: ABC will be Dragged Kicking and Screaming -- Again -- Into Acknowledging Charlie Gibson's Talent

With Couric debuting on CBS at the same time ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas heads to maternity leave, the alphabet net needs a big name to help capitalize on the industry's continuing turbulence. Good Morning America anchor Gibson has proven himself the network's best utility player, coming back to GMA after the network tried to push him off the show in the late 1990s and building it into a powerful program. Now he stands as the one guy who can take over World News Tonight and present a Schieffer-style alternative to NBC's relatively young Brian Williams and Couric's revamped CBS Evening News.

As somebody who saw his graciousness up close when ABC was trying to shaft him, I can sincerely say it couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]

    

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