When David Westin solved his evening news problem with the promotion of the “Good Morning America” co-host Diane Sawyer this week, he created a much more onerous problem for himself in the morning.
With Sawyer set to move to “World News” as Charles Gibson’s replacement in January, “Good Morning America” — the major moneymaker for Westin’s news division — will suddenly be without its rudder. The network has four months to come up with a solution. Tens of millions of dollars are riding on it.
Several staff members at ABC News — who requested anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak — said they expected sweeping changes at the morning show, including multiple anchor changes. Richard Wald, a former news executive at ABC and NBC, said that Sawyer’s move from the morning to the evening shift gives Westin “an opportunity to reinvent morning television.”
“Good Morning America” has been stuck in second place behind NBC’s “Today” show for more than a decade, and the industry consensus seems to be that the current format is not going to change that.
ABC signaled on Thursday that it would conduct a broad search for Sawyer’s replacement. “We’re making a big change” with her move to the evenings, “and further big changes are to come,” said Jim Murphy, the program’s senior executive producer, in an interview. He called “Good Morning America,” or GMA, “an incredibly important program to the network and the people who watch it.”
A TV industry guessing game about possible replacements for Sawyer was already well under way by Thursday morning.
Within ABC, Westin could look to the “GMA Weekend” co-anchors Kate Snow and Bill Weir, or to the “20/20” newsmagazine co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas.
Outside the network, he could consider many former NBC hosts, like Campbell Brown, who was in the running for the “Today” show chair before moving to CNN nearly two years ago; Ashleigh Banfield, who has spent time at MSNBC and Court TV; and Alexis Glick, who is now a morning host for the Fox Business Network.
Analysts have cited current hosts at NBC and CBS, too, including Natalie Morales and Amy Robach of the “Today” show and Maggie Rodriguez of CBS’s “The Early Show.” But none of the people mentioned Thursday have the star wattage of Sawyer.