The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed CBS News executives and people close to Katie Couric, said on Wednesday she could leave her job as anchor of the "CBS Evening News" well before her contract expires in 2011.
CBS and Couric both issued statements downplaying the Journal story while stopping short of an outright denial.
The report comes as CBS continues to lag in third place in the network news ratings, behind NBC and ABC, 19 months after Couric's much ballyhooed debut as the first woman solo anchor of a major U.S. evening newscast — for a salary reportedly worth $15 million a year.
Couric, 51, the former co-host of NBC's top-rated morning show "Today," may leave the CBS as early as next January, soon after the U.S. presidential inauguration, the Journal said in its online edition. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
Her five-year contract is set to expire in 2011, the newspaper said.
CBS and Couric said they have no plans to alter the way they are now working.
"We are very proud of the 'CBS Evening News' particularly our political coverage, and we have no plans for any changes regarding Katie or the broadcast," the network said in a statement.
A separate statement attributed to Couric said: "I am working hard and having fun. My colleagues continue to impress me with their commitment to the newscast, and I am very proud of the show we put on every day."
Despite the heavy promotion of Couric's hiring and the huge amount of media attention it garnered, CBS has gained little headway in the battle for supremacy among the Big Three network newscasts.
For the week of March 31, the CBS newscast drew an average 5.9 million viewers compared to 8.3 million for NBC's "Nightly News with Brian Williams" and 8 million for ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson."
At stake in the competition is a nightly audience of roughly 25 million viewers and $450 million in annual advertising revenue.