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Katie Couric, Maria Bartiromo Facing Big Challenges

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Last week was one of broadcast television shakeups. Cable business news saw industry veteran Maria Bartiromo depart from Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) CNBC, whose ratings the business titan helped to build throughout her two-decade tenure, for Twenty-First Century Fox's (NASDAQ: FOX  ) Fox Business, which is still grappling to reach a comparable audience.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! is making a bet of an undisclosed sum on mainstream news personality Katie Couric, whose daytime talk show "Katie" on Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ABC is not expected to continue for a third season, dissolving a reported $40 million contract. Couric was hired as a global anchor and will begin her stint at the Internet media company in 2014.

First up, Fox Business, which has been in a tug of war with its larger rival for top on-air talent and producers. But none of Fox Business' poaches have thus far had the star power of Bartiromo, who has crossed into the mainstream,  from being a guest on The Tonight Show to hosting the Columbus Day Parade, and snagging countless blockbuster-name cable interviews ranging from Ashton Kutcher to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of Citigroup's biggest investors. 

Bartiromo's Resume
Job Salary 
Fox $5m-$6m per year
CNBC  $4m per year

*Source: Business Insider

Couric's decamp to Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) will of course be the more publicized of the poaches, but perhaps due less to her absence at ABC, as the ratings have failed to impress, but more because she is being billed as the face of Yahoo! News, which can be reached via the Yahoo! homepage, which receives some 43 million unique daily visitors.  

Couric's Resume
Job Pay
Yahoo! Presumably less than Marissa Mayer, whose pay package is reportedly worth more than $70 million through 2017.  
ABC $40m contract 
CBS $15m/year
NBC $13m/year 

*Source: Los Angeles Times

Network exodus
Couric is also not the first media heavyweight to depart from traditional news to some alternative. CBS alum Dan Rather was forced out of the network in 2006 amid questionable reporting for a 60 Minutes segment and later joined Mark Cuban's HDNet, which was eventually rebranded as ASX TV. 

A common thread between these two news anchors is that both left traditional television media seemingly after the pinnacle of their careers. Rather's legacy was mired in controversy while Couric was not able to deliver the ratings that both CBS and ABC were banking on.  

Bucking this trend of missteps, of course, was Oprah, who left ABC to launch the OWN network, which recently became profitable and whose ratings have been on the rise (although still a far cry from the ratings numbers Winfrey produced for ABC). For argument's sake, we will compare her to Bartiromo, as neither had any specific negative catalyst to cause them to defect from their previous employers. 

Bartiromo prides herself as having pioneered reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and being welcomed by traders in the process. While ratings at CNBC have slipped of late, the business network remains the leader in cable business news.

For her part, Bartiromo thrives on new challenges, having been a part of CNBC's rise from reaching less than 20 million households in the 1990s to more than 395 million homes globally today. And at Fox Business, she is handed a similar dynamic, one in which she is looked upon to help to bring the network to the forefront of cable business news. A challenge for Bartiromo could be that CNBC is designed for an institutional audience, while Fox Business strives to reach the mainstream.

In the end 
Bartiromo and Couric are not all that different from a career point of view. Each has built her own respective media empire and is responsible for making her name into a more of a brand. But what do their career moves mean for the parent companies? 

For its part, Comcast, owner of NBC Universal including CNBC, saw its revenue fall 2.4% in the third quarter to $16.2 billion amid tough comps versus the year-ago quarter due to last year's London Olympics. Meanwhile the cable division, which includes CNBC, generated a 4% year-over-year revenue increase to $2.2 billion.

Yahoo!, meanwhile, hopes that Couric will add a measure of "stickiness" among its users, so visitors will become more engaged with the website, and that she will help to attract Internet video advertising, a $7.6 billion market that has higher margins than traditional text-based ads.

Display ads, which comprise some 40% of Yahoo!'s revenue, is an area in which the company has been lagging. Meanwhile, the market opportunity for video ads is expected to nearly double from less than 8% of U.S. digital ad revenue in 2012 to 14.5% by 2016, according to eMarketer cited in Bloomberg. Whether or not Couric is the right bet by Yahoo! to capture a piece of the pie remains to be seen. 

One thing is for sure -- it is putting a lot of pressure on Couric, who hasn't always lived up to bullish expectations in the past. As for the Couric and Bartiromo legacies, they seem to left their mark regardless of any potential career missteps along the way.

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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (4)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2013, at 9:47 AM, jasjfarrell wrote:

    Maria will do just fine on Fox.

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2013, at 1:11 PM, Psychoderelict wrote:

    More interesting question, 'Why is Matt Lauer still employed'?

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2013, at 2:10 PM, Total06110 wrote:

    Maria's star is shining, as she joins the most popular news network on television.

    Katie's star has been flushed, as she is now reduced to being a common blogger, little more than an unemployed baby-boomer sitting home in pajamas writing articles no one reads, splitting a can of cat food with her best friend.

  • Report this Comment On December 03, 2013, at 5:56 PM, Goldenboys wrote:

    My money's on Maria. She bright, very credible, very talented unlike the vapid, talentless Couric who has been pulling the wool over TV executive's eyes for years.

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2013, at 8:36 AM, capt26thga wrote:

    I cant believe these people get paid these huge amounts of money. I havent seen one worth over 15 bucks an hour. The national networks try to turn news reporters into celebrities. I stopped watching them a long time ago. To much personal input into the news. Even here on the net reporters cant just tell you the news they have to put in there unwanted opinion. And thats the way it is...

  • Report this Comment On December 05, 2013, at 5:20 AM, twomuch2luz wrote:

    Skipping my Katie comments as she is a has been at this point. Maria didn't leave CNBC for a couple of million that they surely would have given her; she was very hard to work with and watching her was difficult as she made offhanded comments to co-workers and guests alike. I am pretty sure CNBC is glad to see her go like several of their past annoying anchors.

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