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ABC names Woodruff, Vargas as nightly news anchors

December 5, 2005

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – ABC News on Monday named Elizabeth
Vargas and Bob Woodruff as co-anchors to replace the late Peter
Jennings on the network’s “World News Tonight,” marking a
generational change that allows the network to compete more
effectively against top-rated NBC news.

ABC, No. 2 in the ratings but with a million fewer viewers
than NBC in recent weeks, said the new anchor team will start
work on January 3 in a revised co-anchor format that will
frequently see Woodruff, 44, or Vargas, 43, travel to cover
stories while the other hosts the show.

The show will also break with tradition by being the first
network news to broadcast live from the West Coast. Currently
the networks broadcast live to the Eastern and Central time
zones but not to the West Coast which is three hours behind
Eastern time.

Vargas and Woodruff were part of a three-member team that
replaced Jennings when he retired in April after learning that
he had inoperable lung cancer. Jennings died in August at age
67.

Also on the team was Charles Gibson, 62, co-host of ABC’s
highly profitable “Good Morning America.” There was speculation
that ABC hesitated in giving Gibson the job because of the
effect it might have on the morning show, which is closing the
ratings gap with NBC’s top-rated “The Today Show.”

Jennings, along with Dan Rather of CBS and NBC’s Tom
Brokaw, dominated network news for decades. The three were
referred to collectively by a top TV executive as “The Voice of
God.”

Both Rather and Brokaw retired earlier this year. NBC’s
Brian Williams took over Brokaw’s job and is the top-ranked
nightly news show, with ABC second and CBS third.

CBS has yet to name a permanent replacement for Rather. The
network was reported last week to be trying to woo Katie
Couric, co-host of NBC’s “Today,” for the job. If she accepted
it would be a blow to NBC, which is struggling against low
ratings.

ABC News President David Westin predicted that Vargas and
Woodruff would be around for many years in their anchor jobs.

Their appointment and that of Williams, 47, at NBC gave the
networks a relatively youthful look as they battle for the key
18-to-49-year old demographic, the ages most sought by
advertisers.

ABC is a unit of The Walt Disney Co.. CBS is a unit of
Viacom Inc.. NBC is owned by General Electric Co..


Source: reuters



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