Phyllis McGrady, executive producer of ABC's "Good Morning America" since January, 1985, said Friday she's leaving the show after Labor Day to produce the prime-time interview specials that Barbara Walters does for the network.
That NBC News' revived "Today" show has taken the morning-show ratings lead from "Good Morning America" in recent months played no part in her decision, she said in a brief phone interview from her office in New York.
"No. I really wanted the opportunity to produce these (Walters) specials in prime time," she said.
She said she took the job after Walters told her that she was going to move her production company--which McGrady said makes the specials in association with ABC News--from its current home in Los Angeles to New York.
McGrady, who has worked in various producer jobs at "Good Morning America" since February 1982, conceded that more than four years of 3 a.m. wake-ups for work also was a factor in her decision to change jobs. "It's been very tough," she said.
Ironically, "Good Morning America," boosted by ABC's heavy publicity for the network's coverage of Liberty Weekend in New York, won last week's morning-show ratings race, edging NBC's "Today" by three-tenths of a ratings point.
ABC's show had an average rating of 4.6, "Today" a 4.3, and the perennially struggling "CBS Morning News"--due to get another face-lift and possibly a new anchor team by September--was third again with a rating of 3.2.
Each ratings point represents 859,000 homes.
"It wasn't an easy decision for me to make," McGrady said of her plans to leave ABC's morning show. "We won last week, and there is a side of me that really wanted to stay and fight. On the other hand, the race is close, and I think it will stay close."
McGrady, who has a news background and has worked for ABC News, began her career as a reporter for the Albany, N.Y., Times-Union. She first joined "Good Morning America"--which is produced by ABC Entertainment--as a writer in 1977.
She became a field producer for the two-hour show in 1981, then worked in Los Angeles as producer of NBC's short-lived "America Alive" before rejoining "Good Morning" in 1982 as a line producer.
No successor was immediately announced for McGrady, who told her staff of her decision late Thursday afternoon.