By Alex Ben Block
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – CBS has pulled its offer to produce a syndicated talk show for outgoing evening news anchor Katie Couric, and she is now considering a deal at ABC.
A source close to the CBS discussions said the company decided about a week and a half ago to take the offer off the table.
“The negotiations just went on way too long,” said a person familiar with the situation at CBS. “The deal just kept getting more and more rich, with more and more people involved.”
The source said Couric wanted to maintain a strong relationship with the news division, thereby raising doubts about her commitment to work on original content for a daily show for upwards of 40 weeks a year.
A Couric source responded that CBS got frustrated she didn’t quickly agree to its offer, and executives became upset when word leaked that she might go to ABC instead.
“They are now in cover-your-ass mode,” added that source. “They were concerned they were so exposed and had presumed she would stay there. If she goes elsewhere, they are going to look bad.”
NBC dropped out of the bidding of Couric’s services, and sources in her camp said she decided not to pursue an opportunity with Warner Bros. syndication tied to appearances on CNN.
However, the offer from ABC is real and is in consideration. It includes a syndicated daily talk show and a role on ABC News, including specials and some election coverage. But no deal has yet been made.
If Couric were to close a pact with ABC before her contract expires June 4, she would be obligated to show it to CBS which would have the opportunity to match it and retain her services. The source familiar with CBS did not believe Couric or ABC would want CBS to see what it offers and predicts, for that reason, an ABC deal wouldn’t close before June 5.
The source said CBS’ main interest was the talk show, and that the news presence was seen as a marketing tool “to soften her image and put her in the right forum.”
Instead, added the source, she seemed to want “a news deal with a talk show attached.”
The source noted that her discussions with CBS were with the division that would do the talk show, which would cost about $40 million to launch, while her discussions with ABC have been led by Ben Sherwood, head of the news division.
TVGuide.com was the first to report that CBS had pulled its offer to Couric.
The source close to Couric said CBS now realizes she may go elsewhere and that executives “just want to be able to say that (whoever hired her) is overpaying or overpromising. It’s residual stuff. The truth is she decided to leave CBS and they’re upset about it.”
CBS declined to comment, and an ABC spokesperson did not immediately return a call. A spokesperson for Couric also declined to comment.