Over lunch, at the bar and over the cubicle wall

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Good night Ted Koppel and good luck ABC.
Tonight veteran anchorman Ted Koppel ends his 26-year run as the serious counterpoint on the broadcast dial to the Stupid Pet Tricks of late-night talk shows. Despite ABC’s flirtation with David Letterman a few years back, it will not be replacing “Nightline” with entertainment. It plans to continue the news show with three correspondents -- “20/20” correspondent Martin Bashir, mostly known for his coverage of pop star Michael Jackson; “Primetime Live” correspondent Cynthia McFadden; and ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran -– who will work under new executive producer James Goldston.

Photo: AP
Ted Koppel
Overall the late fringe segment brought in nearly $840 million for the big three networks in 2004, up from $740 million in 2003. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC pulled in the smallest piece of last year's pie, $206 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, compared with first-place ad-revenue generator NBC, which brought in $386 million, and CBS, which drew $251 million, Advertising Age reported this past April 4.

Estimates were batted about that said ABC could make $100 million more in revenue by programming entertainment instead of news. So far, its “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which follows “Nightline,” has not unseated either late-night king over at NBC and CBS. So it's probably smart to keep the counterprogramming of news in place for now.

Koppel’s last broadcast is a look at one of the most requested shows he ever did, a series of three interviews with Brandeis University professor Morrie Schwartz as he was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 1995. The series of talks, which inspired Mitch Albom to write the best-seller “Tuesdays With Morrie,” was held up as an unsentimental yet moving look at an erudite man’s goodbye to the world. We can think of no better send off for Koppel, who famously never made “Nightline” about him, but about the day’s most pressing events.

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