Now that he has the job of NBC News president, Steve Capus can concentrate on his immediate top priority: keeping Katie Couric.
Capus, a veteran NBC News producer who has been acting chief of the news division since Neal Shapiro left in September, had the “acting” part stripped from his title on Tuesday.
He’s immediately thrust into negotiations that will play a large part in the division keeping its No. 1 status and its profitability. Couric, whose contract expires at the end of the TV season, is being courted by CBS to take over as anchor as “CBS Evening News.”
“Katie is enormously talented and an important part of our morning team,” Capus said. “We’re going to continue to focus on the situation with her. It is important — obviously, the morning show audience continues to grow here. Katie is part of the team and it’s a very strong ensemble both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.”
Capus, 42, said his mandate is to keep the division moving forward during swiftly changing times. NBC recently became the first network to make its nightly newscast available online the same night it is broadcast, and he said similar moves are likely for other programming.
Capus was executive producer of NBC’s top-rated “Nightly News” from 2001 until June, when he was promoted to the No. 2 executive post at the news division. He managed the smooth anchor transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams last year.
Prior to that, Capus produced Williams’ nightly newscast on MSNBC.
His new job gives him authority over MSNBC and its president, Rick Kaplan. MSNBC hasn’t been able to escape the ratings cellar in its competition with Fox News Channel and CNN, but Capus said it has made NBC a stronger news organization.
“We have become much more aggressive because NBC News is in the 24-7 business,” he said. “We have to respond quickly and aggressively to stories.”
Capus was also briefly in the production ranks at “Today” during the mid-1990s, where he worked under then-executive producer Jeff Zucker. Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group, continues as his boss.
Zucker said Capus “has great journalistic judgment, the confidence of his colleagues, and a keen understanding of the importance of extending the NBC News brand across new platforms in this ever-evolving digital era.”
A Temple University graduate, Capus worked in local news in Philadelphia before joining NBC News in 1993 as a producer of its overnight news broadcast.
“I’m a home-grown product of this organization,” he said. “I know it through and through and I know the people. They turned to someone who knows all of that and it’s a great statement to make about this news division.”