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’60 Minutes’ times 2

Eye spinoff renamed after original newsmag

NEW YORK — CBS said Tuesday that spinoff newsmag “60 Minutes II” will be renamed “60 Minutes” in the fall. CBS News prexy Andrew Heyward said the two shows would remain editorially independent and “cordially competitive”; it was simply time to validate the spinoff as the real deal — a point Heyward stressed in a memo dispatched to staffers.

“The Roman numeral II created some confusion on the part of the viewers and suggested a watered-down version,” Heyward told Daily Variety.

Also at the Eye’s upfront sesh on Wednesday, CBS chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves announced a shift in course for newsmag “48 Hours,” which will move from Wednesday to Saturday at 8.

Show will shed its current title “48 Investigates” and become “48 Hours Mystery,” which the network had aired during the past several summers under the title “48 Hours Mysteries.”

Heyward said “48 Hours Mystery” would continue to be produced according to CBS News standards and that no dramatic license would be taken.

The “60 Minutes” renaming comes as creator and exec producer Don Hewitt prepares to exit next month after 36 years at the helm. It’s unlikely that Hewitt, who is fiercely protective of his show, would have embraced the idea of renaming “60 II.”

Shows may share

Insiders say viewers can expect to see the two news programs periodically collaborating, even to the degree that periodically, a story could begin on the Sunday broadcast and finish on the Wednesday show. Thus far, they have remained distinctly separate in story lineup. Giving “60 II” the official “60” stamp could allow CBS’ sales force to hike ad rates. Over the years, Hewitt’s show has been one of the most profitable for the net.

Both shows are ending the season up over last year in the ratings, having scored a number of important interviews and stories. It was “60 II” that first aired pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused by U.S. personnel.

“60 II” exec producer Jeff Fager will take over for Hewitt; Hewitt’s present No. 1, Josh Howard, will replace Fager on the Wednesday edition. The shows will maintain separate staffs and producers.

Heyward and Fager have repeatedly stated that viewers won’t notice a drastic change when the two shows bow this fall under new leadership.

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