’60’ the second appears likely

Hewitt said to be on board project

NEW YORK — CBS is going forward with plans to launch a second edition of “60 Minutes” for midseason.

While details have yet to be worked out, CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS News president Andrew Heyward have decided to develop a second installment of the venerable newsmagazine. “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt is said to be on board with the plan and has started conceptualizing just what the new version will look like.

Hewitt is also likely be involved in the evolution of the new show.

A formal announcement of the project is not expected to come until later this month or early July.

Because of the complexities of launching a newsmagazine, the second “60 Minutes” probably wouldn’t hit the air until March 1999 at the earliest. Talent and producers for the show have yet to be finalized, though some overtures to individuals may have been made by Hewitt.

CBS execs have been mulling the idea of a second “60 Minutes” for several years, with the notion gaining renewed attention in the past few months.

Hewitt and the show’s on-air talent have expressed varying degrees of dissatisfaction with the concept of cloning the newsmag, fearing the reputation of the franchise might suffer.

Because of that, industry wags have speculated that the current “60 Minutes” anchor lineup wouldn’t contribute to a second edition. Hewitt’s stamp of approval on the project might soften their objections.

CBS News anchor Bryant Gumbel has been mentioned as a possible lead correspondent for the project if CBS decides not to bring back his “Public Eye” for midseason.

The Eye web may also try to convince CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who currently contributes occasional segments to “60 Minutes,” to become a regular presence on the second edition.

CBS execs believe establishing a newsmagazine franchise on multiple nights will help the network better compete against NBC and ABC, which this fall will both air three or more weekly editions of a single newsmag.

The original “60 Minutes” premiered Sept. 24, 1968, and became a regularly scheduled weekly series in 1975. The newsmag has finished in Nielsen’s Top 10 every year since 1977, and is the second-longest-running primetime series in TV history.

A CBS News spokeswoman declined comment.