NEW YORK — ABC News stars Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer are putting aside any real or imagined professional rivalries to co-anchor the Sunday edition of “20/20,” the Alphabet web confirmed Thursday.
The long-expected pairing was announced by ABC News prexy David Westin, who called the combination “a dream team for primetime newsmagazines.”
“Both are superb journalists with proven track records, and they’re both larger than life,” Westin said.
Despite any real evidence of a feud, media reports have frequently painted Walters and Sawyer as personal and professional enemies who regularly squabble over stories and big-name interview “gets.” Both have insisted they’re friends, dismissing the rumors of a rivalry as sexist gossip.
Whatever their off-air relationship, Walters and Sawyer could make for a potent on-air anchor team, with both bringing in loyal viewer bases. In addition, the two have different strengths, with Sawyer specializing in undercover investigations and Walters reigning as the queen of the newsmaker interview. “They complement each other well,” Westin said.
Once the decision was made to team Walters and Sawyer, Westin said, Sunday night quickly emerged as the best night to present them. “Sunday night has the highest levels of viewership of any night of the week, and 9 o’clock is the (most-watched) hour,” he explained. “That puts a lot of pressure on us” to attract an audience.
In addition to their Sunday duties, the two women will each anchor another edition of “20/20” during the week. Sawyer and Sam Donaldson will front the Wednesday version, while Walters and Hugh Downs will remain on the original Friday edition.
Connie Chung and Charles Gibson, who had been named anchors for the reformatted “20/20,” will initially serve as reporters and substitute anchors. They will be given permanent anchor berths if and when ABC decides to expand “20/20” to a fourth night, Westin said.
A Monday edition of “20/20” is widely expected to premiere in January, following the end of the “Monday Night Football” season.
The new “20/20” is the result of ABC’s decision in May to merge the staffs of “Primetime Live” and “20/20” under one umbrella franchise. To help establish the resulting product as a new show, ABC will re-launch “20/20” with a new set, reworked music and other minor cosmetic changes.