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ABC closer to seating Stephanopoulos on 'Good Morning America'

Network executives are said to be in talks with the former Clinton White House advisor. He would replace Diane Sawyer, who will inherit the 'World News' anchor desk from Charles Gibson.

December 04, 2009|By Matea Gold

Reporting from New York — ABC is moving closer to naming George Stephanopoulos the new co-anchor of "Good Morning America," replacing Diane Sawyer on the morning news show.

Network executives are in talks with Stephanopoulos, who anchors the Sunday morning show "This Week" and serves as ABC's chief Washington correspondent, about the terms, according to people familiar with the situation.

The talks began this week after ABC News President David Westin met with Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, and told her that Stephanopoulos was his choice for the post.

People knowledgeable about the process cautioned that there was no deal in place. "The conversations are all very complicated, and there are things to be worked out," said a person close to the situation.

Still on the table are the details of Stephanopoulos' compensation, as well as his exact role on "Good Morning America," on which he would partner with co-anchor Robin Roberts. The former Clinton White House advisor may continue hosting "This Week" in the near future, but it appears unlikely that he would continue in both posts in the long term.

ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider would not comment on the discussions.

"We're working within a timetable we established three months ago," he said Thursday. "We're not at the end of that process. And when we are, we are going to make an announcement."

Next week is expected to be Sawyer's last on "Good Morning America," where she has been a fixture for a decade. On Dec. 21, she is going to inherit the “World News” anchor desk from Charles Gibson.

It's unclear how the program will fare without Sawyer, one of the few superstars remaining in television news. Absent her wattage, Westin is seeking to adjust the program's sensibilities. In a recent presentation to Sweeney, news division officials laid out a plan to focus more on hard news in the first hour and on consumer stories about finance, health and education in the second hour. Parenting stories would get more prominence.

Such an approach would mesh well with Stephanopoulos, the father of young children, and his interest in serious-minded journalism. Associates said the former political analyst has had questions about whether the format of "Good Morning America," which is laden with frothy features, could accommodate his desire to do hard news reporting.

If Stephanopoulos does move to the morning, that could mean "Good Morning America" news anchor Chris Cuomo, who has also been in contention to replace Sawyer, would leave the network. And ABC would eventually have to deal with yet another major anchor job to fill: Stephanopoulos' post on "This Week."

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