NEW YORK — NBC News has dropped “Dateline” co-anchor Stone Phillips in a cost-cutting move that signals even greater changes at the network’s signature newsmag.
Phillips, who has been with “Dateline” since its inception in 1992, won’t be replaced. His co-anchor, Ann Curry, will now serve as the main anchor of the show, with correspondents such as Chris Hansen expected to take a greater role in the studio, introducing their own stories.
“It’s been a wonderful 15 years,” Phillips said in a statement. “I’m profoundly appreciative of the many friends and colleagues, past and present, who have been a part of the ‘Dateline’ family.”
Phillips didn’t return a call for further comment.
Departure comes as the Peacock’s news division is cutting costs as part of the NBC 2.0 initiative, which began last summer and fell hard on “Dateline” staff. “Dateline” and NBC News’ longform unit are being combined as part of the reorg and pushed harder to turn out content for “Today,” “Nightly News” and MSNBC.
Though now accustomed to a new financial reality at the network, staffers were still surprised that the cuts hit Phillips, who typically conducted the biggest “Dateline” interviews and pushed internally for harder news stories.
“When you look at how synonymous his name is with the show, it is stunning, which is how most of the staff took it,” one staffer said. “It’s a sign that the ‘Dateline’ that everybody watched and liked is turning into something else.”
Phillips’ departure is another sign that high-priced talent is vulnerable in NBC’s search for efficiencies. Earlier this spring, the net declined to renew the contract of John Siegenthaler, another longtime NBC News veteran who was anchor of the weekend editions of “Nightly News.”
The Peacock replaced Siegenthaler with Lester Holt, who pulls double duty as co-anchor of the weekend editions of “Today.” Curry, who will anchor “Dateline” solo, is also news anchor for the weekday editions of “Today.”
Like other network newsmagazines, “Dateline” has expanded and contracted over the years along with its popularity. At one point, the show was on the schedule five nights a week and had a staff of more than 300.
Now the show is on three nights a week to help fill holes in NBC’s primetime schedule, but staff number fewer than 150.
Today, the show is known for its “To Catch a Predator” hidden-camera series, which has nabbed child molesters and identity thieves as well as derelict husbands who check out of their marriages during football season.
Phillips’ departure was announced by exec producer David Corvo at a “Dateline” staff meeting on Tuesday.
Before joining NBC, Phillips spent 12 years at ABC as a correspondent for “World News Tonight” and “20/20.”
NBC News prexy Steve Capus praised Phillips for his impact on the show. “His work on ‘Dateline’ over the past 15 years has been remarkable, as evidenced by the unprecedented awards Stone and the program have won, including 39 Emmys and four Peabodys,” he said.