By Jeanne Darst
Updated December 20, 2001 02:47 PM

“Today” show cohost Katie Couric has reached a deal with NBC to stay on with the network for the next four-and-a-half years, at a salary that published reports say may be the biggest in television news to date, according the Associated Press and The New York Times. NBC was under tremendous pressure to keep Couric, as “Today” is its most-profitable show. With ratings falling of late, the network didn’t want to take any chances by losing the beloved, perky cohost. Couric, 45, scored not only in the financial department — where she reportedly could be earning as much as $16 million in both cash and stock in NBC parent General Electric — but also in terms of what she’ll be doing. Part of the deal includes flexibility to do prime-time specials and “Dateline NBC” segments, according to The Times. Still, “I would love to stay at the ‘Today’ show as long as they want me, and as long as I feel like I’m doing fun, exciting work,” Couric told the AP. She has hosted “Today” since 1991, when she replaced Deborah Norville, working first with Bryant Gumbel and then, since 1997, with Matt Lauer. Couric won over audiences with her youthful cheer, and also earned the respect of the journalism community after winning two Emmys, a National Headliner Award and an Associated Press Award. Couric’s star rose even further when she did a segment about colon cancer after losing husband Jay Monahan, at age 42, to the disease in 1998.