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Hurdles Ahead for ‘GMA’ Toppers

Jul 31, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The new producers of ABC’s “Good Morning America” are starting their jobs facing some headwinds.

Jim Murphy, named senior executive producer last week, and Tom Cibrowski, who will take over as executive producer, inherit a show that can’t maintain its momentum with viewers. They also must search for talent to replace former co-host Charles Gibson, who took over the anchor desk at ABC’s “World News.”

Mr. Murphy is starting to map the landscape of his new job.

“We serve an audience that’s mostly female,” he said in an interview with TelevisionWeek. “We’re trying to be really good at breaking news when it happens overnight. We’re trying to entertain people. And we’re trying to get people to be devoted to us, to pick one place to spend their mornings.”

Mr. Murphy, who was an executive producer for “CBS Evening News,” said he won’t tip his hand on specific plans until they debut on-air.

After narrowing its gap with rival NBC’s “Today,” second-place “GMA” has lost ground in the last year to “Today.” For the week of July 17, “GMA” trailed “Today” by about 1 million viewers. ABC has lost ground since May 2005, when it narrowed the gap to 40,000 viewers. For the last 31/2 months, “Today’s” lead over “GMA” has exceeded 600,000 viewers.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Cibrowski have numerous on-air talent decisions to make, the biggest being how to deal with the exit of popular “GMA” anchor Mr. Gibson.

Diane Sawyer this summer has been hosting “GMA” along with Robin Roberts, who is co-anchoring with a number of male substitutes for Mr. Gibson.

ABC News also must consider its options in regard to Ms. Sawyer’s considerable presence on the show, because the prevailing feeling is that Ms. Sawyer is unlikely to continue on “GMA” past the 2006-07 season. Ms. Sawyer, who also doubles as “Primetime” co-anchor, has said that she is committed to “GMA” into next year.

The show also needs a permanent weather announcer and news reader.

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Cibrowski succeed Ben Sherwood, who is leaving the production Oct. 1.

While Mr. Cibrowski, promoted from his role as a senior broadcast producer at “GMA,” focuses on the day-to-day running of the show, Mr. Murphy will look at the bigger picture.

“I’m going to spend the next few weeks really studying the place. I do not know all the operations. I do not know all the people,” Mr. Murphy said. “Ben’s still here and in charge of the program.”

Mr. Murphy will report to Phyllis McGrady, ABC News senior VP of morning, primetime and development, the network said last Wednesday.

Mr. Cibrowksi will report to Mr. Murphy.