Norah O’Donnell reportedly took a massive pay cut to stay at ‘Evening News’
By Matt Collins Article may include affiliate links
According to the Post sources, O’Donnell had been signed to an $8 million a year deal in 2019, but is now being paid $3.8 million under a new deal that will keep her on the air through the 2024 elections.
The Post also claims that CBS News execs used the prospect of hiring former NBC News anchor Brian Williams to take over the broadcast as a bargaining chip to get O’Donnell to take a lower salary, something that CBS’s PR team vehemently denied.
“Wrong again. Neeraj led the effort to retain and re-sign about a dozen of our biggest anchors and correspondents over the last year including Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King – and recruited a few new ones like Nate Burleson and Robert Costa,” an unnamed spokesperson told both the Post and Mediaite.
The spokesperson also threw in this nugget: “While there are huge prime time openings elsewhere in the News industry, CBS News has the No. 1 news broadcasts and finished the season with multiple shows including morning and evenings in their most competitive position ever. Apparently, the more false stories the NY Post writes, the better things go for CBS News.”
CBS News did not immediately respond to a request for comment if the salary reduction figure reported by the Post was correct though it has not denied previous reports that O’Donnell accepted less money this time around.
According to Post sources, CBS lowballed the $3.8 million offer to O’Donnell, perhaps in hopes that she would walk away, but she ended up accepting.
Despite allegedly playing a risky game with one of its most high profile anchors, it’s likely that both CBS and O’Donnell got something out whatever wheeling and dealing did take place.
If the report is correct, CBS was able to reduce what it’s paying O’Donnell — perhaps significantly. One of the key sticking points is that O’Donnell was being paid a premium rate compared to the ratings she was getting — and reportedly causing havoc behind the scenes. She also reportedly received a $60,000 wardrobe allowance, something also reported by the Post, though a rep said that figure was not correct, without indicating if it was high or low.
O’Donnell gets to keep her job and save at least some face, while also getting a chance to buy more time to connect with viewers and hopefully build a stronger audience. It’s probably unlikely that she could have made a move to another network given her low ratings and heaps to negative PR lately.
While losing more than 50% of her income would be significant, especially for someone who is known for having expensive fashion tastes and accustomed to living for many years on a network correspondent and anchor’s salary, she’s unlikely going to end up living paycheck to paycheck (though there have been reports of anchors, especially female ones, quietly struggling financially while their male counterparts rake in massive salaries).
CBS, meanwhile, didn’t really have a good replacement plan for O’Donnell beyond the possibility of reported talks with Williams. Internally, it was reportedly considering Tony Dokupil, but he also doesn’t have quite the experience that most evening network news anchors have. That could change, however, by the time O’Donnells current deal expires so he could become a key pawn in the game by then.