Broadcast networks curbed their free-spending ways in the 1990s, when cable started seriously eating away at their share of the audience. By the end of that decade, the news divisions of ABC, CBS, and NBC were competing for viewers with three 24-hour cable news channels, and they watched their ratings diminish. The internet has also pulled away viewers.

Heated battles for big names still occur. But it's difficult for anchors to make a successful transition in a crowded TV landscape.

Multiple networks courted Bryant Gumbel before he left NBC's Today after a successful 15-year run. He joined CBS but never achieved the same level of success in prime time or the morning. He has since left network news behind and retreated to his HBO program, Real Sports.

Katie Couric, arguably the most-popular morning show personality ever during her tenure on Today, could not take the CBS Evening News out of third place in the ratings. She was paid a reported $15 million a year to take over the broadcast in 2006 and left five years later. Her syndicated daytime talk show that followed, which paid her $10 million a year, lasted only two seasons.

Keith Olbermann was the top-rated anchor on MSNBC when he left after a dispute with management in 2011. He had built a passionate fan base with his political commentaries, but it wasn't large enough to sustain his move to a fledgling and ultimately short-lived cable channel called Current.