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Katie Couric said to eye CBS exit

'Evening News' anchor fields syndie options; CBS mulls successors

Katie Couric is likely to leave “The CBS Evening News” when her contract ends in June to develop a syndicated program, a source familiar with the negotiations says.

Names floated for her replacement include “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley and “Early Show” senior correspondent Harry Smith. But insiders emphasized that the talks are ongoing; it’s not definite that Couric anchor will leave the network.

CBS topper Leslie Moonves remains a support of Couric’s, but her camp is exploring the possibility of syndie deals with NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. and CBS, among others. There’s been chatter in media circles that Couric may reunite with her former “Today” exec producer, Jeff Zucker. After exiting as NBCUniversal CEO in January, Zucker has said he’s interested in returning to producing.

Speculation that Couric would cut a short-term deal to extend her stay and remain at the helm of “Evening News” through the 2012 presidential election is fading. But one consideration for Couric is the timing of her move. It would take months to get a syndie strip off the ground, and the anchor doesn’t want to drop off the radar.

An ideal arrangement for Couric would be a pact that offers her a news outlet while the daytime show is developed and shopped to TV stations. Warner Bros. could offer her a berth on CNN, as could NBC News. Couric is also said to be considering online opportunities.

Couric joined CBS News in fall 2006 under a $15 million a year contract. Despite her star power, she was not able to lift the newscast out of its longtime spot as third among the Big Three nightly newscasts.

CBS News and a rep for Couric declined to comment.