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Sievers to Exit ‘Nightline’ as ABC Tinkers With Format

Nov 18, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Plans to change venerable “Nightline” in ways ABC News is not yet willing to discuss are going to result in the exit of a key “Nightline” player, award-winning executive producer Leroy Sievers, as the late-night news show prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Mr. Sievers on Thursday released a statement that said: “My contract expired in September. The company has made it clear that it is considering fundamental changes to the format and the direction that the broadcast takes in the future. We were unable to agree to those changes and are currently negotiating the terms of my departure.”

Mr. Sievers has won 10 Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards and has helped “Nightline” win two Columbia-duPont Awards. He joined “Nightline” as a producer in 1991 and was named executive producer in September 2000.

There was no word Thursday whether anyone would be named to replace Mr. Sievers to report to Tom Bettag, who is “Nightline” senior executive producer and executive producer of “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

An ABC News spokesman said Mr. Sievers will depart at the end of December.

The prospect of change that would not sit well with a solid newsman like Mr. Sievers, who produced the stunning accounts of “Nightline” anchor Ted Koppel’s experience as an embedded journalist when the United States went to war against Iraq, raises questions again about whether ABC and parent company Disney would rather have entertainment programming in the 11:35 p.m. time slot.

ABC’s offer to displace “Nightline” for David Letterman was a factor in Mr. Letterman’s refusal to jump to ABC in 2002. Executives of the network and Disney made no secret then about their disdain for “Nightline,” which finishes third behind Mr. Letterman on CBS and Jay Leno on NBC. “Nightline” loses money and has moved increasingly to taped programs, extra days off and more vacation for Mr. Koppel.

An ABC News spokesman declined to comment on what might have provoked the current situation. But he said, “We are extremely excited about the future of ‘Nightline’ as we enter its 26th year and celebrate the 25th anniversary.”