Change for ABC D.C.

Dec 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The Bush White House isn’t the only Washington institution in transition. With Leroy Sievers out as “Nightline” executive producer, senior executive producer Tom Bettag is once again at the day-to-day helm of the late-night news show that celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2005.

After he was named executive producer of “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” in the summer of 2003 Mr. Bettag combined the staffs of “Nightline” and “This Week” and reformatted “Week,” which continues to struggle in third place in the Sunday newsmaker-show competition.

Now the search is under way for a new executive producer for “Week.” Whether this portends another revamp is a question for which The Insider has no answer yet. All she can report is that the staffs in D.C. are expected to remain combined and that the “Week” EP position is expected to be filled in January.

Oh, and day-to-day oversight of “Nightline” has been assigned to Senior VP Bob Murphy, who reports to Paul Mason, the senior VP who oversees political programming.

Stay tuned.

Change for Headline

So CNN Headline News is, as long rumored, going to abandon its distinctive raison d’etre-all headlines all the time-in prime time early next year and join the appointment-viewing competition. Headline News Executive VP and General Manager Rolando Santos made it official, if sketchy, Dec. 6, when he announced internally that there will be a legal hour at 7 p.m., an entertainment hour at 8 (both originating from New York) and a news hour originating from Atlanta at 9, with the legal and entertainment shows repeating from 10 to midnight.

After earnest head-scratching about why Headline’s headlines are going to be sent to bed early, The Insider decided that her favorite crackpot theory is that the change will render it a less compelling alternative to CNN.

Meanwhile, odds-makers expect intramural skirmishes between bookers for CNN and Headline News.

Change for ‘King’

And so The Insider comes to the juiciest item yet. Frequent logrolling booking of broadcast network news stars, a longtime staple of CNN’s “Larry King Live,” has been removed from the bookers’ playbook at “Larry King” by edict of CNN News Group President Jim Walton.

Yes, Andy Rooney can visit to flog his book “Years of `Minutes,” as he did Dec. 9, on the same show with former President Jimmy Carter, promoting his first novel, “The Hornet’s Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War,” and failed Democratic VP candidate John Edwards and wife Elizabeth, talking about her battle with breast cancer.

But no, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters or the entire ensembles of CBS’s “60 Minutes” or ABC’s “primetime>live” cannot spend an hour on CNN promoting their news shows that compete with CNN’s own news franchises.

Mr. Walton’s edict, which some suggest was intended to apply across the board at CNN, went out before Jonathan Klein’s hiring in November as CNN/U.S. president. The question must be asked: If “Larry King” could have booked non-CNN news stars at its usual fast clip, might there have been a happier ending to the November sweeps, when “King” dropped out of the top 5 cable news programs to No. 11?