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Ted Koppel, ‘Nightline’ EP to Depart ABC News in December

Mar 31, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Ted Koppel and Tom Bettag, the anchor and executive producer, respectively, of “Nightline,” will leave ABC News when Mr. Koppel’s contract expires Dec. 4. The news was announced to ABC News staffers Thursday morning via e-mail from ABC News President David Westin.

“Ted, Tom, and I have had ongoing conversations for almost five years seeking to ensure ‘Nightline’s’ continuity and to create an orderly transition. All of us are optimistic that both goals can and will be achieved. Ted and I have discussed a number of options under which he might have remained at ‘Nightline’ or in some other capacity at ABC News, but Ted believes this is the right time for him to leave. As much as I will regret his leaving, he is firm in his conviction, and I respect his decision,” Mr. Westin wrote.

“There will be ample opportunity, closer to the time of their departure, for me to express fully what Ted and Tom have meant to ABC News and to network news overall. For 25 years, Ted Koppel and ‘Nightline’ have represented the best of what we can achieve in reporting on the important and difficult issues of our day-all done with the utmost intelligence and integrity. By making this announcement well in advance, Ted and Tom have provided us with the time we need to segue to the next chapter in the illustrious history of ‘Nightline.'”

Mr. Koppel has been with ABC News for 42 years, the last 25 as anchor of “Nightline,” of which he also is managing editor. The program, which has been a steady award-winner for ABC News, has lost some of its signature potency over the years as it broadcast live and Mr. Koppel appeared live less frequently. ABC made an abortive attempt to woo David Letterman away from CBS in 2002, but the “Late Show With David Letterman” host said he would not want to be responsible for Mr. Koppel being supplanted.

Even as Mr. Koppel and Mr. Westin held contract talks over recent months, when one of the possibilities was that Mr. Koppel might supplant George Stephanopoulos as anchor of ratings-challenged “This Week” on Sunday mornings, there has been much thought given at ABC about what to do with the “Nightline” slot. In addition to expanding “Nightline” to an hour, the options considered by ABC News have included a lighter news nightcap originating from the “Good Morning America” studios in Times Square. Proposals also have been solicited from other divisions in ABC’s Disney parent company.

Mr. Bettag has worked at CBS News for 22 years, some of which were spent as Dan Rather’s “Evening News” executive producer, before joining ABC News and “Nightline” in 1991.