The long-time host of NBC's Today, who retired from the show in January, will host his own prime-time magazine series and form a company in partnership with CBS' Eyemark Entertainment to develop syndicated programming and produce primetime specials for the network.
Gumbel, 48, signed a five-year deal with CBS that will reportedly double his compensation package to $5 million per year. At a press conference today, Gumbel expressed his enthusiasm about joining CBS' team. "I am very excited...This is a very happy day for me," adding that it was a close call between CBS and NBC.
Gumbel and NBC are ending a long and successful run, which started 25 years ago when the broadcaster began working as a sportscaster on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. Fifteen of those years were spent as anchor of the Today show, where Gumbel interviewed superpower leaders and Super Bowl heroes with a style that some saw as intelligent and confident, others as arrogant.
Gumbel said leaving NBC was a difficult decision for him to make, adding "I have nothing bad to say about any of them." The network made a valiant effort to keep their star journalist, wooing him with the promise of stock options and a number of programs, including a home on MSNBC and a show on a new overseas network being developed by NBC and National Geographic. "It was a close call," he acknowledged.
But the network had no guaranteed primetime slot for Gumbel (Dateline NBC monopolizes those times for news) and Tom Brokaw wasn't about to be budged from his job as Nightly News anchor. ABC, too, threw offers of a newsmagazine Gumbel's way, but the show would have been positioned opposite NBC's killer, ER.
CBS also trumped the other networks with an offer of stock options in parent company Westinghouse Electric Corp., and ownership in the syndicated programs Gumbel will produce and anchor. He is the first network anchor to have such an agreement.
Westinghouse Chairman Michael Jordan said he approves of the deal, stressing, "We are not going to win in this business by doing what we have been doing," apparently referring to CBS News division's third-rate status.
Andrew Heyward, head of CBS news, agreed with Jordan, adding that "Bryant is a key to our expanding to new areas." Heyward noted that, even though Gumbel's primetime show is still in development, part of it will be broadcast live to showcase Gumbel's interviewing skills.
However, contrary to rumor, Gumbel said he won't be taking over Dan Rather's spot as anchor of CBS Evening News, stressing he never hosted an NBC evening news show, "not even on weekends."
A spokeswoman for NBC said earlier, "We wish him all the best."
The network saw Gumbel off in grand style, turning his last Today show into a two-hour tribute, with such guests as Muhammad Ali, poet Maya Angelou and The Artist paying their respects to the teary-eyed host.
(Updated 5:35 p.m. PT)