Last week, Leslie Moonves — the man we can’t decide if we love or loathe here — received a 29% pay raise with compensation totaling about $36.8 million. Of course, the headlines were filled with chatter about the fate of well-compensated news anchor Katie Couric, so it’s understandable that most of you missed this news.
CBS news is faltering. CBS programming is faltering. Other divisions are doing okay, but if I were the type to own CBS stock, I’d be fuming at the chief executive’s compensation. But that’s neither here nor there…I want to talk about Katie Couric.
I think all of the discussion surrounding her almost-guaranteed departure from the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News misses the point. It’s not about Couric’s “likeability”. It’s not about the fact that America is, according to people who clearly have no clue, not ready to embrace a female national news anchor. It isn’t about the fact that Couric was a lousy fit for the job in the beginning.
It’s about the fact that a half-hour, hour national news broadcast is simply old-fashioned. We have multiple 24-hours news channels, with more than a few tailored to specific types of news. We have car radios, most of which are serving up our news while we’re sitting on the freeway (let’s face it: there are a large number of Americans who simply can’t be home for appointment news). We have this magical new invention called the Internets.
When Couric was hired in 2006, her reputed $39 million/3 year deal was a Hail Mary pass on the part of CBS. It made no sense — for those people who watched the nightly news, bringing in a superstar to sit at the anchor’s desk didn’t matter. For those who might tune for the curiosity factor, maybe some would stick around. For those who haven’t been home to watch the nightly news in many, many decades, it was business as usual.
CBS would have been better served by putting all that money into developing a truly modern, everywhere-you-are, we’re-giving-you-something-better-than-our-competition news organization. Bringing in a well-known face was a sign, if ever one existed, that CBS wasn’t really ready to face the future. The fact that Moonves continues to draw in the big bucks despite a lack of cohesive, logical digital strategy is another.
Katie Couric won this game. She’ll land on her feet, or maybe she’ll just take the slow road for a while — it’s not like she needs the money. In the meantime, your ‘loper team will continue to play love Leslie/hate Leslie.