Is The New Face of Network TV News...
Speculation is rampant over who will fill the vacant evening news anchor seats at CBS and ABC, and how those choices will reflect each network's vision of network TV news delivery in the 21 Century.
At ABC, insiders say weekend anchor Elizabeth Vargas has the inside track on replacing Peter Jennings, partially because ABC News chief David Westin has not been shy about saying he wants someone in the job for 20 years -- cutting out the obvious choice, sixtysomething Good Morning America co-host Charlie Gibson -- and partially because Disney brass don't want to break up the popular Gibson/Diane Sawyer paring on GMA.
At CBS, new news chief Sean McManus hasn't been shy about courting Today show goddess Katie Couric, whose contract expires in spring 2006. Her choice: go to a third-place news operation struggling to redefine itself in the modern age for bucketloads of money and the ever-shrinking prestige of anchoring an evening newscast -- or accept bucketloads of money to stay in the hottest daypart for TV news and accept that she'll never be the official face of NBC News.
While it's always a bad idea to bet against ego in the TV business, I'm thinking Katie won't want to do all the heavy lifting to reinvent CBS News by herself when she could rule most of the world at NBC, minus all the globe-trotting.
Today marks one year exactly since NBC replaced Tom Brokaw with firefighter-turned-newsman Brian Williams. And the network looks positively prescient for drafting Williams from the farm team of cable news, taking two years to groom a guy who connects to the old voice-of-God anchor sensibility, but is hip enough to trade quips on late-night talk shows and keep his own way-cool blog.
But at a time when so many anchors seem so interchangeable and shrinking revenue makes big paychecks for anchor stars less feasible, I'm betting we see smaller names take the helm at ABC and CBS -- a move which will, ironically, only hasten the viewer exodus from evening news.