Over Lunch, At the Bar and Over the Cubicle Wall

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ABC Picks Its Anchors While CBS Still Wooing Couric.
The new face of ABC’s “World News Tonight” is actually two faces, but it was almost three. Elizabeth Vargas, 44, and Bob Woodruff, 43, will co-anchor the No. 2- rated evening newscast. ABC News Chief David Westin offered them the chairs after he and Charles Gibson, the “Good Morning America” co-host and three-decade veteran of ABC News, couldn’t agree on timing or tenure, according to multiple reports out today. That’s likely the best-case scenario for Westin, who was juggling the need to keep the GMA team, including star Diane Sawyer, happy with Gibson’s desire to be in the anchor chair through the 2008 presidential election. The Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC will also change the format, broadcasting live to three time zones and adding more Internet news, including a broadband preview on ABCnews.com.

Photo: AP
Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff
With ABC’s decision set for how to replace Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer earlier this year, that leave CBS out there alone to set its nightly newscast after this year’s anchors away-ing. Brian Williams is comfortably delivering over at NBC, having seamlessly stepped into Tom Brokaw’s shoes. Dan Rather exited his seat after the “Memo-gate” scandal, and ever since Les Moonves, the new-media-chasing chairman of CBS Corp., has been intent on solving the problem of his third-place news show. After throwing out ideas as far-fetched as “Naked News” and Jon Stewart-like takes on the day’s events, he’s set his site on NBC’s Katie Couric. His wooing has been so intense, we expect to see him on bended knee in Michael’s any day now, with the “60 Minutes” gang backing him up.

Why is this important information for advertisers? Because all of the maneuvering is ultimately less about kick-ass reporting and more about boosting ratings to attract more advertising revenue. So far this year, the three have split a total of $368M in ad revenue. But the three morning shows brought in $791M. That makes the TV news chess board of which piece to move from morning to evening a little more black and white.

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