By ALEXANDER HITCHEN
Today star Katie Couric has put NBC into a panic by saying she will decide this fall whether to move to rival CBS when her $13 million-a-year contract ends.
And her co-host Matt Lauer has also suggested he too could be packing his bags when his contract on the breakfast show finishes.
Couric told an interviewer: “I have, when it’s operating on all four cylinders, one of the best jobs in television. At the same time, everybody needs recharging.”
She also revealed CBS has approached her to replace anchor Dan Rather when her contract ends with NBC in May next year. The 48-year-old, who admitted having two meetings with CBS boss Leslie Moonves, said she would make a decision this fall.
And she revealed her anguish at the criticism she suffers as ABC’s Good Morning America, hosted by Diane Sawyer, threatens to overtake Today in the number one ratings spot.
Said Couric: “I feel like a human piñata. The disappointing thing is no candy is going to spill out. This may not be a lot of fun but it goes with the territory, unfortunately, of being successful and female, probably.”
A Today show source told The National Enquirer: “Katie’s comments that she has been approached by CBS has put everyone over at NBC into a panic. After Dan Rather left, it was rumored that Katie could be a potential replacement. She’s now made this real by suggesting it could happen.
“With the show losing ground to Good Morning America, this is really causing a stir inside the Today offices. Katie is the heart and soul of the show. If they lose her, it will be a disaster.”
Lauer has meanwhile suggested the spark has gone from his on-air relationship with Couric.
He said: “After eight years, how many people have the exact same spark of energy and enthusiasm and that same novelty they felt in the second month they were married?”
Lauer also suggested he plans to go into semi-retirement in three years when he turns 50.
He plans to do special documentaries for National Geographic, adding: “I don’t want to work five days a week.”
The National Enquirer recently revealed how Couric is waging a war with Lauer for a new contract worth $100 million over five years. Lauer currently earns $8 million a year. The hosts’ professional pressures have certainly taken a toll on their personal lives.
Katie was recently dumped by millionaire Tom Werner because of her constant complaints about working on the Today show. She began dating the sitcom king two years after the death of husband Jay Monahan from colon cancer in 1998.
Friends recently spoke of how Couric’s life changed after losing her husband.
Said Steve Friedman, a Today producer: “Ever since then, [Katie’s] been searching for another partner, and since she hasn’t found that partner, a lot of the balance is gone. She has more highs and lows.”
Meanwhile, Lauer’s personal life is changing too. In our May 2 issue, we reported that he was dumped by his wife of six years Annette Roque.
— Additional reporting by Jeff Samuels