CBS “Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell has more than just a ratings problem, she has an attitude problem and, according to sources at the network, her ego may land her on the chopping block when her $6 – $8 million-per-year contract expires this spring.
CBS News is under a new, no-nonsense leader, co-president Neeraj Khemlani, and as the New York Post reported, he has been taking an ax to costs since May in an attempt to turn the network profitable.
“Rank-and-file at the third-place network gripe that co-president Neeraj Khemlani — a former Hearst executive who along with ex-ABC executive Wendy McMahon took the reins in May — is demanding more work even as he axes resources, with some raising concerns that ruthless bean counting at CBS News is ‘cutting it to the bone,'” The Post reported in January.
So it isn’t surprising that sources from inside the network are anticipating Khemlani’s ax will next fall on O’Donnell’s reportedly inflated head.
“The next big decision from him is revamping the ‘Evening News,'” one source told The Post, adding that there are cheaper ways to come in last place in the ratings.
Another source stated that O’Donnell’s “toxic behavior” is sinking the show. “It’s not a money maker,” the source said.
So what kind of behavior are we talking about?
Well, for starters, O’Donnell reportedly requires a tension-building full “dress rehearsal” of the “Evening News” during the 30-minutes leading up to airtime. The practice runs are often peppered with tantrums aimed at O’Donnell’s hair and make-up stylists, who have been known to burst into tears before it’s over.
“There was an incident last year in the studio where she ranted about how her bronzer was wrong,” one source revealed. “We are in the middle of a pandemic and people are dying.”
Another source explained that the rehearsals–unusual for a news broadcast–were a chance to critique the “robotic” O’Donnell’s teleprompter-driven deliveries and “make her look more human.”
Said a third source of the anchor: “She’s a news actress.”
An actress who is currently, as critics note, late getting to the critical mark.
As the only evening TV news anchor absent from the Eastern European stage during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, O’Donnell’s ratings have taken a hit.
While O’Donnell’s pre-war audience of between 5.3 and 5.6 million viewers nightly were already dragging by millions behind ABC and NBC, Nielson’s numbers for the week of Feb. 28 reveal “The Evening News” is now pulling less than 5.1 million total viewers, compared to NBC’s 7.4 million and ABC’s 8.8 million, according to The Post.
“David Muir, Lester Holt and Anderson Cooper are all in Ukraine,” one source noted to the outlet. “Where’s Norah? We are in the middle of a war and she’s reporting from Washington D.C. Either she didn’t want to go or leadership didn’t want her to go. It’s bad either way.”
It’s possible O’Donnell has wanted to hit the frontlines but is having trouble packing for the trip.
According to insiders, at a time when resources are being cut at the network, the anchor has a $65,00 a year wardrobe allowance and is very particular about what she wears.
To punctuate her priorities, the tone-deaf O’Donnell recently posted a selfie to her Instagram account in which she is seen sporting a $2,700 Oscar de la Renta fitted wool jacket.
View this post on Instagram
While it may cause screams around the water cooler, O’Donnell’s publicist, Cindi Berger, has dismissed the gripes as “fake news.”
“It’s a clothing allowance, every news anchor has one,” Berger stated. “That figure is incorrect.”
Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that “CBS Mornings” anchor, Tony Dokoupil, who has been reporting from Poland nightly, may be in line for O’Donnell’s gig.
While O’Donnell is set to jet to Poland this weekend, some insiders fear that, for the primadonna presenter, “it’s too late.”
In January, Khemlani told Deadline that CBS has “no current plans to change” course regarding O’Donnell, but sources are skeptical.
“I don’t know if Neeraj can make the final decision but he’s going to bring [ratings] data to [CBS CEO] George Cheeks and [Paramount Global CEO] Bob Bakish,” the source said. “Norah’s contract is up in May. There’s time.”
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