Les Moonves out to downsize anchor salaries


If you’re a young TV journalist who got into the business expecting to draw a paycheck in the tens of millions as a network anchor, you might want to rethink your career plans. CBS Corporation CEO Les Moonves says those days are over.

As CBS negotiates with Katie Couric over renewal of her contract, which is currently believed to pay her about $15 million a year, Moonves said Monday (10/4) in a speech at the University of Texas at Austin that the days of signing news anchors to eight-figure salaries are over and that the CBS deal in 2006 to lure Katie Couric away from NBC would be the last such deal ever done – not just by CBS, but by any network. “We thought it would make a difference. It didn’t,” Moonves said in his speech accepting the 2010 William Randolph Hearst Fellow Award.

Moonves denied that the Internet will ever kill off television, but rather he said ventures Hulu, GoogleTV, Netflix and others will only add to the media landscape, not replace what has gone before.

But he acknowledged that the 24/7 availability of news and information has made its impact on the network evening newscasts.

“People are getting the news elsewhere. When there were only three networks, you did have that public service component, where we were informing America. Now, there is nothing that Katie Couric is saying that everybody doesn’t know already,” The Daily Texan quoted Moonves as saying.

Moonves also noted that Couric is doing a lot more now than anchoring the newscast. She blogs, does podcasts and hosts an online-only interview program. He didn’t mention whether those new duties made it easier to justify the size of her paycheck.

RBR-TVBR observation: OK, none of us are going to cry any tears over Katie having to take a pay cut if she stays at CBS – or likely if she goes elsewhere as well. We’d be overjoyed to get her current paycheck for just one month. Quite frankly, the effort by CBS to rework the evening news to attract a younger and more female audience made some sense – but it failed and no one will ever try that again.