Matt Lauer makes $17 million, topping annual TV news salaries

Dylan Stableford

When Katie Couric's five-year, $65 million contract with CBS News expired earlier this year, one of the reported reasons that the network elected to part company with its nightly news anchor was that Couric simply had become too expensive to keep. Her "Evening News" replacement, Scott Pelley, is said to be earning less than $5 million per year.

Meanwhile, some of Couric's other colleagues in the television news business appear to be doing just fine.

According to TV Guide's upcoming salary issue, Matt Lauer's new contract with NBC earns him $17 million a year--a well-deserved figure, given the exotic bird hazards that Lauer has to face on the "Today" show set. Brian Williams, host of NBC's "Nightly News," earns $13 million annually--$1 million more than ABC's "World News" host Diane Sawyer.

Anderson Cooper's new deal with Time Warner--which includes "AC 360" and his upcoming daytime talk show, "Anderson"--is worth $11 million a year. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who hosts the top-rated show on cable news, gets $10 million per year--the same salary that former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann now draws at his new perch at Current TV.

Despite these bulging salaries, "network news divisions and talk-show producers are also trying to hold down costs," TV Guide reports. "Regis Philbin is leaving 'Live! With Regis and Kelly' instead of taking a cut in his $15 million salary." And Piers Morgan "is getting less than a third of what Larry King earned during his final year in CNN's prime-time lineup."

The TV Guide issue with a complete list of TV salaries hits newsstands Thursday.