Stossel to fly solo

NEW YORK — There seemed to be little panic at ABC News over the announcement that Barbara Walters will retire from “20/20″ in September after a 25-year run that has included one “get” interview after the next.

But don’t expect the Friday primetime newsmag to stay the same once Walters, 74, leaves to focus on ABC News specials and her daytime show, “The View,” which airs on the Alphabet. There’s sure to be fewer interviews and more stories.

“I’d be less than honest if I didn’t confess to a moment or two of concern over losing Barbara Walters’ weekly presence on one of our most important programs,” ABC News prexy David Westin said in a memo dispatched to staffers late Sunday night. “But that concern was quickly overtaken by my confidence in Barbara’s good judgment of what is best for her and, ultimately, for the program. And, in the end, we all want what is good for Barbara,” Westin wrote.

As of now, there are no plans to replace Walters on the show, meaning her current co-host, John Stossel, will fly solo.

Westin must have been pleased by overnight ratings for last Friday’s edition, “20/20: Lies, Myths and Downright Stupidity With John Stossel.” Newsmag ranked No. 1 for the night in total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, according to Nielsen Media Research. Show airs at 10 p.m.

Aside from Walters’ interview in November with Martha Stewart, that was the show’s strongest perf since early 2002. Segment coincided with the release of Stossel’s book “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists and Become the Scourge of the Liberal Media” (HarperCollins).

It’s fair to say Walters’ departure presents an opportunity for ABC Entertainment, which is enjoying success with its revived Friday comedy block. In the past, Walters was none too happy when the network tried to move “20/20″ from its Friday slot.

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