'Today' host close to verdict?

NEW YORK — Katie Couric returns to “Today” from vacation this week, spurring rumors that she’s about to make the decision to jump to CBS’ “Evening News.”

NBC controls the fate of the “Today” host until she can officially commence negotiations with CBS on May 1. But if Couric comes back with her mind made up to join CBS News — which is what many people close to her believe will happen — then it is likely that the Peacock will make the announcement sooner, both to honor their ayem star and milk her departure for all it’s worth.

While it’s possible NBC will make an announcement this week, sources deemed that unlikely. Couric’s contract with the net ends May 31. Both NBC and CBS would like to have the drama concluded before their upfront presentations in May, when TV networks present their fall schedules to advertisers.

In the meantime, NBC is preparing for life without Couric by upping the profiles of Campbell Brown and Natalie Morales and setting guest appearances by versatile White House correspondent David Gregory. Meredith Vieira is considered a possible replacement for Couric, though she would have to make some difficult lifestyle choices to trade her hosting gigs on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “The View” for the early shift.

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