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Curry Adds ‘Dateline’ Gig

May 16, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Ann Curry, the “Today” show’s news reader, is getting a second job: She will be named a co-anchor of “Dateline NBC,” TelevisionWeek has learned.

The addition of Ms. Curry indicates that “Dateline,” which Stone Phillips has anchored solo since former anchor Jane Pauley quit NBC News in May 2003, likely will continue to occupy two hours on the fall prime-time lineup that NBC unveils today.

Ms. Curry’s expanded responsibilities also are expected to be announced today. Ms. Curry, who so far during May sweeps has skydived and explored the pyramids of Egypt, will continue her role of eight years on “Today,” according to sources familiar with the situation. An NBC News spokeswoman declined to comment.

Ms. Curry has been most associated with heart-tugging stories, but she has proved that she can also handle hard news, reporting from locations such as the deck of an aircraft carrier in a war zone and tsunami-ravaged outposts.

Her “Dateline” appointment comes as cautious optimism emerged at other networks that no prime-time newsmagazines would be canceled as the network’s unveil their new schedules this week, despite double-digit year-to-year ratings drops for all but CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Spinoff “60 Minutes Wednesday” started the season at the center of the season’s biggest TV news scandal. The program was found to have used unauthenticated documents in a report about President Bush’s wartime Texas Air National Guard service. It later was publicly characterized by CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves as vulnerable to cancellation because of its weaker performance.

However, sources familiar with the competitive landscape said there were reasons to think “60 Minutes Wednesday” would live to fight another season in one of the toughest time slots in prime time-opposite ABC’s blockbuster “Lost.”

Indeed, the tough or infertile time slots in which newsmagazines labor-whether it is ABC’s “primetime>live” up against the hits “Without a Trace” and “ER” on Thursdays, “Dateline NBC” or ABC’s “20/20” on less-viewed Fridays or “48 Hours Investigates” on Saturdays, which have largely become a night for network reruns-are among the best arguments for a reprieve for the news shows.

The conventional wisdom is that unless a network is confident it has the developed the next “Lost” or “Desperate Housewives,” it is unlikely to put an entertainment show into a time slot where it has little hope of succeeding. Newsmagazines at least are less expensive and offer distinct alternatives to prime-time entertainment series.

In addition, no executive relishes the negative press that would accompany a decision to yank “60 Minutes Wednesday” or to pull the plug on “primetime,” which is still a useful showcase for “Good Morning America” co-anchor Diane Sawyer.

“Anything can happen at the last minute,” said one source, who has spent many a spring on tenterhooks while awaiting renewal of newsmagazines.

“I’m usually cautiously pessimistic,” said another seasoned observer. “[This time] I’m cautiously optimistic.”