ABC Shows How It's Done With Successful Sawyer Switch

Low expectations produce high ratings
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2010 3:43 PM CST
Updated Jan 18, 2010 4:10 PM CST
The new GMA lineup, including George Stephanopoulos.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – With all the bloodshed at NBC, it would be easy to overlook the fact that at least one network has made a major talent changes without causing plummeting ratings. Diane Sawyer’s relatively inconspicuous slide into Charlie Gibson’s ABC anchor seat didn’t deliver an immediate ratings bump, but she’s now commanding the biggest World News Tonight audience in almost 2 years. And George Stephanopoulos’ numbers at Good Morning America are above season average.

The takeaway: Evening news ratings are in declining mode, but the audience that's loyal to it is also loyal to the status quo, so radical change and reinvention just speed the demise of the format. "Our primary thought was that there should be continuity between Charlie and Diane, to keep our audience comfortable,” an ABC exec tells New York. “ABC's strategy of managing this decline is not the most exciting answer to the problem,” Chris Rovzar writes, but “it might be the best one. ”

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