Will Couric mark ‘Today’ anniversary by leaving?

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NEW YORK (AP) – Katie Couric may mark her 15th anniversary as “Today” show anchor this week by making the decision to leave.

She’s talking with CBS about taking over as “CBS Evening News” anchor, according to a non-network person close to the negotiations, and neither CBS nor NBC is disputing reports that she could announce a deal as early as this week.

There are still some issues left to be resolved before a deal is reached, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Couric’s contract with NBC ends in May, and she reportedly needed the network’s permission to begin negotiations with another network before next month. NBC’s decision to grant it could be an indication that the network expects her to leave, or at least that it wants a decision before outlining its fall programming plans to advertisers next month.

Couric’s first day as “Today” anchor was April 5, 1991, and the morning show plans to mark that anniversary on the air Wednesday. Her tenure, with Couric paired the last nine years with Matt Lauer, have brought the morning show unparalleled ratings and financial success.

The Hollywood Reporter, citing multiple sources, said Tuesday that Couric is set to announce her departure from “Today” on the program itself at 7:30 a.m. today.

Representatives for NBC, CBS and Couric would not comment Tuesday on the discussions.

Meanwhile, Meredith Vieira of “The View” has emerged as the leading candidate to succeed Couric at “Today” if she leaves, according to people familiar with NBC’s thinking. Vieira, a former CBS News reporter who won a Daytime Emmy as host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” has previously turned down offers to return to news since joining “The View.”

“Today” weekend host Campbell Brown is also a candidate, along with NBC reporter Natalie Morales and “Today” newsreader Ann Curry.

Couric, 49, would be the first woman to be named as a sole host of a network evening newscast – even though Elizabeth Vargas frequently has done that job alone at ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

That designation – and the desire to try a new challenge after 15 years of early wake-up calls – is said to be a powerful motivation for Couric. NBC’s offer to keep her is reportedly several million dollars more than CBS’s offer, but it doesn’t include the anchor slot at NBC’s “Nightly News,” said the person close to the talks.

She likely would begin at “CBS Evening News” in September.

With Bob Schieffer filling in during the year since Dan Rather’s exit, the “CBS Evening News” is the only network evening newscast rising in the ratings. But it’s still in third place behind NBC and ABC.

“I will be delighted if she came,” Schieffer said on Tuesday. “I think she’ll be a great addition to a very good news team … I’ve known Katie for years and I think the world of her.”

“Today” hasn’t lost a week in the ratings in more than 10 years.

“If it comes to an end, I’ll be the first to cry,” Curry told “Access Hollywood.” “If she leaves, she’ll be very hard to replace.”

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