NEW YORK — Ending months of speculation, Tom Brokaw has finally selected his own personal D-Day, informing NBC News that he will step down as anchor of “Nightly News” on Dec. 1.
Peacock brass informed affiliates of the date last week during an affil meeting in New York, a NBC News spokeswoman said Friday. On Dec. 2, longtime Brokaw heir apparent Brian Williams will take over, giving Americans their first new network evening news anchor in more than 20 years.
NBC announced last year that Brokaw would turn over his seat to Williams sometime after the 2004 presidential election, but had left it to Brokaw to determine a precise date. This set off fierce speculation about whether Brokaw would indeed leave “Nightly” in 2004 or perhaps stay until early 2005.
Brokaw will remain at the network news division, focusing on specials.
There is much riding on Brokaw’s departure from “Nightly.” While NBC maintains it’s confident the show will remain the No. 1 network evening newscast under Williams’ reign, the competish sees an opportunity to benefit from the switch.
ABC News, in particular, is confident that “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings” will pick up viewers. Jennings’ show is the No. 2 network evening newscast.
NBC News has been aggressively grooming Williams in recent weeks, dispatching him to meet with NBC affils around the country and giving him a more prominent role on “Nightly.”
Previously, Williams anchored his own evening newscast on the Peacock’s financial news cabler, CNBC. He was hired by NBC nearly a decade ago with the express purpose of being prepped as evening news anchor.
Introducing a new network anchor has always been a daunting prospect, especially when replacing a figure as popular and iconic as Brokaw.
Williams has already taken his share of potshots for being too polished. Still, ratings haven’t suffered when Williams subs for Brokaw on “Nightly.”