Division prexy points to ratings gains, reveals new slogan

A year into his tenure as ABC News prexy, Ben Sherwood defended the organization against suggestions that it has become lightweight while asserting it is on track to become “the No. 1 source for news in the world.”

“We believe our guiding philosophy is relevance,” Sherwood said at a Television Critics Assn. press session in Pasadena, noting that ABC News’ new slogan would be “See the Whole Picture.”

While citing the nascent ABC News-Yahoo partnership as a key for future prowess, Sherwood pointed to key interviews with world leaders and the improved performance of “Good Morning America” as evidence of present strength.

“The ‘Today’ show is very mighty, and they have been very mighty for a very long time,” said Sherwood, who exec produced “Good Morning America” from 2004-06. “It’s an incredible priority for us to take on and to challenge and to topple the ‘Today’ show.

“I think if you can look at what has happened in the last year, ‘Good Morning America’ has grown in the last year, and we have slashed the lead ‘Today’ has held over us. We’re really enjoying the best season we have had in years while cutting NBC’s lead by about 30%-40%. … If we keep going at this rate, I think we will get to our goal, which is to be No. 1 in the morning.”

Sherwood addressed the roles of some key personalities, including Katie Couric, who departed CBS News last year.

“In the year ahead, her first priority is her syndicated television show, no doubt about it,” Sherwood said. “But she’s an important member of the ABC News team. I think you’re going to see her showcased in lots of different ways.”

Sherwood added that George Stephanopoulos replacing Christiane Amanpour on “This Week” made sense because the coming presidential election is in Stephanopoulos’ wheelhouse while it would have handcuffed Amanpour from exerting her global news expertise. Ratings for “This Week” suffered during the tenure of Amanpour, who was given the title of global affairs anchor.

Also addressed was Charles Gibson, who retired in 2009 but actually did an off-camera introduction Sunday of Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”

“It is my hope that in time, we’ll get Charlie back on the air,” Sherwood said. “I think the key is he is sincere about his desire to pursue other choices, but I think he’s got a great voice and knowledge about politics, for instance, this year, and I would love to have him come back if it works for him to lend his voice to our political coverage.”

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