NEW YORK — ABC News sources said Monday they are taking seriously the threat that Diane Sawyer could jump ship to another network, but they said they are hopeful of re-signing her--albeit with a hefty pay increase.
Sources said that ABC recently has been willing to go as high as $5 million a year to retain the co-host of the popular "PrimeTime Live," whose contract expires at the end of the month. She reportedly makes about $3 million a year now.
In an article published this week in the New Yorker, media writer Ken Auletta reports that Sawyer has been the subject of a bidding war that includes Fox and CBS, with Fox said to be offering about $7 million annually for her to anchor a weekly newsmagazine after the network's newly acquired NFL football games this fall.
CBS Broadcast Group President Howard Stringer has been wooing Sawyer with the offer of a "Nightline"-style newscast at 7 p.m. That would be difficult to manage on the network, since that is a time slot controlled by local stations, but sources said Monday that what Stringer has in mind would in effect be a joint venture between the CBS network and a large syndicator, such as King World, with CBS offering clearances on its owned-and-operated stations.
Stringer, who lost Sawyer to ABC five years ago, would love to win her back.
However it works out, one official observed, "with negotiating leverage, Diane is going to be very rich" at the end of her contract negotiations.