New blues haunt execs at Big Three

Ousted Heyward served 10 years at CBS News helm

The title sounds great, but president of one of the Big Three news divisions is one of the most thankless — and perilous — jobs in media.

So when Leslie Moonves showed Andrew Heyward the door last week, most considered it less remarkable than the fact Heyward had lasted so long.

Heyward served nearly 10 years at the helm of CBS News, weathering multiple owners, falling ratings and bigger-than-life egos. So thankless is the job that Jeff Zucker couldn’t talk anyone into the job at NBC: Former “Nightly News” exec producer Steve Capus is holding it down on an interim basis.

So perilous is the job that no one looked twice when Zucker shot news prexy Neil Shapiro off his horse — just months after he engineered the transition from Tom Brokaw to Brian Williams, while keeping “Today” and “Nightly News” in first place.

But the truth is, all three nets have intractable problems.

CBS must find a permanent successor to Dan Rather and make the “Early Show” competitive with “Good Morning America” and “Today.”

NBC may have top-rated news shows, but it has no idea what to do with cable newsie MSNBC.

ABC is faced with disappointing its top anchor, Charlie Gibson, if it names Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas as permanent replacements for Peter Jennings.

So while CBS Sports president Sean McManus was on no one’s whisper list for the CBS News job, his appointment makes perfect sense. By taking on both sports and news, he follows in the footsteps of the last truly heroic exec to hold the post at any network: Roone Arledge.

As son of ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, McManus grew up in the business watching Arledge work. Now he has the chance to engineer a turnaround that would be no less spectacular than what his mentor achieved at ABC.

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