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Couric To CBS: Rolling the Dice

couricaarp.jpgIn hiring Katie Couric, CBS News executives are making an expensive bet — and viewers will decide whether it pays off.

“CBS officials are banking on their belief that Couric will draw more 25- to 54-year-old viewers, the key demographic used to determine advertising rates for the networks,” today’s Los Angeles Times says.

I’m not convinced that Couric is the answer to the “demo problem.” When she begins anchoring the CBS Evening News in September, the 49-year-old Couric will be the oldest of the “big three” anchors. (Brian Williams is 46. Elizabeth Vargas is 43. Bob Woodruff is 44.)

Couric appeared on the cover of AARP Magazine last year, and she’ll be eligible to join the association of retired persons next January. By the time her five-year contract is up for renewal, she’ll be outside the 25-54 demo.

Of course, Couric is much younger than Dan Rather or Bob Schieffer, and she has two young daughters. “Her strength is being able to connect to people,” a person close to Couric noted this morning.

Last week, the difference between first and third place in the evening news demo ratings was 0.4. NBC averaged a 2.4 last week, while ABC had a 2.3 and CBS had a 2.0.

In 2005, the median age of CBS Evening News viewers is 60.8. (The median for NBC is 59.9; for ABC, it’s 59.1.) If Couric can help move the needle just a little bit, she’ll rake in revenue for CBS News.

But will 30- and 40-year-olds start watching the evening news because Couric is in the anchor chair? Do viewers who watch ‘Today’ also watch the evening news? I don’t think so. For CBS, Couric is a move in the right direction, but she won’t be the savior some are expecting.

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