A a spokeswoman for O’Donnell declined to make the anchor available for comment. O’Donnell disclosed her new contract Friday evening while having a toast with some producers at CBS News’ Washington, D.C., facility, according to three of these people. CBS News confirmed it had signed the anchor to a new deal on Saturday, after details, some previously reported by Puck, began to surface.
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The deal was cemented despite growing speculation that CBS News, under the direction of co-president Neeraj Khemlani, might seek to replace the anchor, who has seen her profile grow during a stint co-anchoring the formerly-titled “CBS This Morning” and a tenure at a “CBS Evening News” that has moved its main operation to the nation’s capital. After Khemlani came aboard last year, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, CBS News began reaching out to agents representing anchors and correspondents who worked for rival operations to suss out whether they might have interest in working for a daytime CBS News program, which talent representatives took to mean the anchor chair at “CBS Evening News.”
Still, O’Donnell was eager to stay in place at the news division, where she has won recognition for her investigations into how the U.S. military handles sexual assault. She has also contributed frequently to “60 Minutes” and launched a new, streaming edition of the CBS News mainstay, “Person to Person,” a show once anchored by the legendary Edward R. Murrow. O’Donnell’s version is designed for telecast on CBS News’ broadband hub.
To be sure, “CBS Evening News” continues to lag its main competitors, ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “NBC Nightly News.” And while its audience has shrunk over the past 12 months, the program has enjoyed a boost over its pre-pandemic performance. The show won an average of 5.42 million viewers during the first quarter of 2022, according to Nielsen, compared with 5.99 million viewers in the year-earlier period.
Khemlani has shown interest in disrupting CBS News’ insular culture by bringing in new talent. Nate Burleson, the former NFL wide receiver and CBS Sports analyst, joined the network’s morning-news program last year. CBS News recently hired former Washington Post reporter Robert Costa, and he and Post editor Robert Woodward recently delivered an amazing scoop about texts between the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Mark Meadows., a former White House Chief of Staff during the Trump administration that seemed to support the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in 2020.
But he has also kept ties with some CBS News mainstays. A contract renewal with Gayle King, who has held forth CBS News’ morning program through a variety of anchor lineup and format changes, was struck in January. And O’Donnell’s new agreement will ensure she is at the helm of many of CBS News’ most-watched efforts.
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