What Would Couric as “Today” Fill-In Mean for Yahoo Deal? Nothing (And Everything).
The New York media scene today went full a-twitter — not to be confused with Twitter in any way, although it is just as shrill — at the prospect that perennial television news star Katie Couric is being bandied about as a potential temporary replacement for “Today” show co-host Savannah Guthrie, who will be going on maternity leave in late summer for a few months.
Why would I care about morning show machinations? Well, mostly because Couric — who is poised to end her ABC daytime talk show “Katie” in June — has already been hired by Yahoo as its “global news anchor” and is set to dive full-bore into her job there once she is free of other commitments (including the roll-out of what looks like a very fine documentary on childhood obesity, titled “Fed Up,” set to debut in theaters later this week).
Will she also then sign up as a substitute on “Today”? Unlikely, said some sources, although it does make some level of sense and also yields a big dollop of gooey nostalgia, since Couric was the most successful of anchors there until she left in 2006.
But the Yahoo deal is a pricey — many millions of dollars annually to Couric — and high-profile gig that was struck by CEO Marissa Mayer, with Couric and a not-so-small staff set to do a range of big-get video interviews for the homepage. When the deal was announced last November, Mayer called Couric the “face of Yahoo News,” noting she would “lead a growing team of correspondents at Yahoo News who will cover the world’s most interesting stories and newsmakers.”
So far, although Yahoo said it would be gearing up in early 2014, Couric has posted very few interviews, including one with former New York Mayer Michael Bloomberg and a more recent one with Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia. Her work, aside from a single homepage link, is definitely hard to find on the site.
Still, she did star at Yahoo’s recent NewFront presentation in New York, including interviewing of other Yahoo content editors. (Score!). But the big Couric push on Yahoo clearly has yet to happen.
Interestingly, Yahoo also has a news partnership with Disney-owned ABC, which Couric’s Yahoo relationship is not subject to. And, since her deal is nonexclusive, of course, Couric can do other things. Still, sources inside Yahoo tell me that the company is eager for her to focus her attention there and really deliver some splashy things as part of the arrangement.
Whether she can do that and also be the face of the NBC-owned “Today” juggernaut is a good question, especially since Couric will get much more heat from the TV job. So, in many ways, the move back to morning TV — even as a substitute — is kind of ideal for her.
We’ll see how the anchor drops, so to speak, although Couric is — as I can attest from our few encounters, most recently this weekend at events around the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. — very energetic and eager about her next chapters, including making herself an online success.
A Couric spokesman declined comment about the “Today” rumors.
And NBC — which has a news operating agreement with Re/code and also is a minority investor in the company that owns this site — is playing coy about the talks, noting there are no official discussions with Couric. Other reports pointed to all kinds of goofy tea leaves, such as Couric and Guthrie having lunch and chit-chatting at the WHCD. (Dear Internet, thank you for being so much easier to cover.)
“With the ‘Today’ show in a good place, we are blessed with great talent and many options to temporarily fill Savannah’s chair while she’s on leave, but there’s no plan yet,” said an NBC News spokeswoman in a statement. “Stay tuned.”
I shall, since I like a good episode of “Game of Thrones.” Wait, that’s HBO.
Until there is more morning drama, here’s a video of Couric talking about her new Yahoo gig, which you cannot embed outside of Yahoo, who knows why (Katie, get on that!). But you can watch it here.