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Perkins in Fox forecast

Weatherman makes the jump from 'GMA' to 'Today'

ABC weatherman Tony Perkins is jumping to Fox from “Good Morning America” at a time when the morning show is making a push to overtake NBC’s “Today” in the ratings.

About 400,000 viewers separate the two shows nationwide, down from more than a million one year ago, and ABC execs had hoped that the new TV season, anchored by “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” would help ABC to the top.

That hasn’t yet happened, and ABC and NBC spent the first few weeks of the season putting on gaudy Katrina benefits that NBC capped off with an hourlong segment with President Bush.

Perkins has been at “GMA” for seven years, but he never moved his family from Washington, D.C., and said that the opportunity to move back to Fox’s WTTG, where he worked before jumping to the network, “is too good to pass up.”

In a memo to staff, Perkins said he would have the opportunity to contribute to Fox on a national basis as well, but WTTG execs said those details have yet to be worked out.

“Although it is hard to leave ‘GMA,’ the show is in a strong position right now, and for many reasons, both professional and personal, this is the right time to move on,” he said.

“GMA” exec producer Ben Sherwood said Perkins agreed to stay with the network through November sweeps. “I want to thank Tony for seven successful, memorable years,” he said.

The departure of Perkins breaks off a piece off the Diane Sawyer-Charlie Gibson-Robin Roberts co-anchor group that has helped ABC cut NBC’s lead by 75% over the past year. “GMA” is sharing the services of Gibson, who began co-anchoring “World News Tonight” after Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Gibson is one of a small cadre of candidates considered possible successors to Jennings, but his departure from “GMA” would be a far bigger blow to the breakfastcast than Perkins.

Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas have won accolades for their stewardship of “World News Tonight,” which has grown in the ratings since the duo took over in April.

Perkins’ last appearance on “GMA” will be Dec. 2.

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