NEW YORK – The search for Bryant Gumbel's Early Show replacement will have to begin again — because Meredith Vieira of The View has apparently been lured into staying at ABC by a big money offer.
Network officials have offered her the chance to host the syndicated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire this September, according to insiders.
But despite a report yesterday, sources say a deal is still not yet done.
"Meredith has a couple of great choices — an outside opportunity [The Early Show], which is pretty fabulous, and a great job at The View, which she loves," said Vieira's agent, Michael Glantz.
"She's going to make a decision based strictly on her family needs as she has done throughout her entire career."
Sources say Vieira was originally pitched to host the syndicated version of Millionaire months ago because "she sees it as family programming."
"It's a little premature to say she'll host the show," said one source. "If she decides to stay at ABC, then she'll find out what ABC has in mind regarding other stuff."
Viera's decision to stay at The View — and perhaps take on the job of hosting a daytime version of Millionaire — means a big payday for the popular TV personality.
Her salary could jump 10 times — from a reported $500,000 a year to $5 million or more.
Vieira even received an on-air blessing yesterday from Live with Regis & Kelly co-host Regis Philbin — who hosts ABC's prime-time version of Millionaire but passed on hosting the syndicated version.
"You know, they were afraid she might slip over to CBS so they're making her happy," Philbin said to co-host Kelly Ripa.
"Good luck to her."
CBS had been chasing Vieira to replace Bryant Gumbel on The Early Show. But with all indications now that she will stay at ABC, CBS has gone back to the drawing boards.
Among those CBS is said to be interested in are Hollywood Squares host Tom Bergeron, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams or CNN's Bill Hemmer.
For Vieira, the mega-deal would be the culmination of a start-and-stop career that began at Ch. 2 here in the early 1980s as a news reporter.