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The Insider

May 14, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Katie: Don’t bar the door
Could NBC be preparing to offer Katie Couric $45 million to $50 million for three more years? That’s what the Insider hears is being whispered about on Broadcast Row. The bidding war for the services of Ms. Couric, whose contract expires next year, is expected to heat up in the next few weeks. Look for Viacom to come up with a three-year offer in the $60 million range, including a seat on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and a syndicated talk show that would be distributed by CBS Enterprises. “It’s worth at least $20 million [a year] to CBS to get Katie off the ‘Today’ show, so their ‘Early Show` has a chance of getting out of third place,” said one know-it-all executive. NBC’s offer would keep Ms. Couric on the “Today” show. And AOL Time Warner desperately wants Ms. Couric to replace the soon-to-be departed Rosie O’Donnell. Officially, the networks deny all, of course, and wish the Insider would get a life.
The mike is King for CNN correspondent
Speaking of getting a life, we found what CNN reporter John King said to Vice President Dick Cheney before their interview about energy policy last week infinitely more juicy than anything that was said during their on-the-record chat.
In one of those off-the-record exchanges that always seem to get recorded anyway, Mr. King said to the VP, “The last time I was in this room, I had one of the worst interviews with Al Gore. He was just being a total-so, the two of us, it was like, it was about five minutes and I said, `Fine. Be that way, and I’ll be that way.
“It was just oooooof … eat your peas. I was just gonna kill [short silence followed by an unintelligible word], he was occasionally difficult.”
A minute or so earlier, Mr. King, in response to someone telling him how to sit once the tape was rolling, was heard joking, “You’re saying I can’t lean right? You’re just gonna keep those stories alive about the Clinton News Network.”
Mr. King’s response to being caught on candid audio: “I meant no disrespect to former Vice President Al Gore. In the middle of the campaign, there were some tough moments for him, and he wasn’t in the most cheerful mood that day and it was a difficult interview. … He seemed uptight that day.”
A CNN spokesperson suggested, of course, that the Insider get a life.
Fox’s `Explorer’-hunting expedition
Up until one short week ago, networks had been scrambling to stockpile shows that could tide them over until they could resume regularly scheduled programs. At one point, say sources, Fox Broadcasting even tried to buy “National Geographic Explorer” from CNBC for $34 million. Alas, the deal didn’t happen, “Explorer” is said to be staying put at CNBC, and the writers strike was averted by a tentative settlement, so we’ll never know the joy of seeing “Explorer” and, say, “When Chefs Attack” on the same lineup.
Mel Karmazin’s room with a view
Mel Karmazin is moving his office to Viacom headquarters on Broadway in the heart of New York’s theater district. That done, it is uncertain whether Viacom will hold on to CBS’s landmark Black Rock building. “If we got a price that made sense, we’d sell it,” the Viacom president said. Maneuvering around the scaffolding and loose wires in his new office under construction, just down the hall from Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, Mr. Karmazin joked about his expansive 52nd-floor view, which takes in, among other landmarks, the Rockefeller Center building that has a “GE” sign on top and GE-owned NBC’s headquarters inside. Mr. Karmazin mused that he will position his executive desk with his back to the window to ponder such questions as whether he should use Viacom’s $3 billion annual free cash flow to chase NBC. “Someone is going to merge with them, sooner or later,” he said.
Touche! The final word
Oh, the rapier wit of TV journalists. Case in point: “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw at last week’s International Radio & Television Society Foundation Awards luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria. Just as Mr. Russert was hailing Andrew Lack as “Mr. President,” in honor of the latter’s being promoted from head of NBC News to president of NBC, Mr. Brokaw suddenly appeared from behind a scrum of TV reporters surrounding “Saturday Night Live’s” Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond-also IRTS honorees-and took control of the conversation.
“You,” Mr. Brokaw exclaimed, pointing at Mr. Russert, “go to `Dateline,’ and you,” he added jauntily, pointing at NBC News President-elect Neal Shapiro and Executive Vice President David Corvo, “go to `Meet the Press.’“ Without missing a beat, Mr. Russert grinned at Mr. Brokaw and shot back, “And you go to cable.”