CBS News Tries an End Run at NBC

If the network TV business were a football game, it would be a case of piling on.

Now, when NBC is suffering what will most probably be the end of its long-time reign as the leader of adults 18 to 49 primetime demographic race, CBS is looking to poach two of its main news personalities, according to Newsweek.

Matt Lauer of "The Today Show" or Tim Russert of "Meet the Press" are being sought by CBS to take over Dan Rather's job - now that Rather has decided to leave his seat as the anchor of "The CBS Evening News" next year.

The idea is to shake up the CBS News division, rather than make a predictable move in automatically promoting from within. CBS News' John Roberts and Scott Pelley remain major contenders as well for the job.

The move means CBS feels there is more life left in network news -- despite the rise of cable networks such as Fox News and CNN. Though ratings have dwindled on the show, CBS News still pulls in many millions in advertising revenue, and is still a profitable business.

Whether CBS succeeds or fails, this is how networks need to act. Two years ago, ABC tried to poach CBS' David Letterman, who was at the end of his contract. He would have replaced Ted Koppel's "Nightline" show. That effort didn't work. But ABC Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun did the right thing - go after the biggest fish available for late night TV, one that would have given the network some major buzz if it succeeded.

In much the same way, CBS would be remiss if it didn't do a similar thing -- go after a young set of popular newsmen from other networks to replace the older Rather. This would let NBC, ABC, Fox News, and CNN know that journalistically CBS will not only be fighting for the big stories but for its space on the TV news dial.