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Bettag moves to ‘Week’

ABC News shakes up Sunday ayem

ABC News said Thursday it is asking “Nightline” producer Tom Bettag to change the format of its lagging Sunday ayem talker “This Week.”

Move indicates that ABC is well aware that something must be done to shore up “This Week,” which has fallen precipitously in the ratings since George Stephanopolous became host last fall.

Bettag said he wasn’t ready to talk about specific changes, but said there is no doubt that “This Week” will look vastly different. The two staffs will be merged and the power of “Nightline” will be used to enhance the production capabilities of the Sunday show, among other things. He was named senior exec producer of “Nightline” and exec producer of “This Week.”

“This is a big deal. The first thing I’m going to do is listen to people and then make decisions,” Bettag said.

Launched decades ago, the three networks Sunday shows — NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’ “Face the Nation” and “This Week” — have changed little in their no-frills style.

Bettag said that the time has come to do something different, and that ABC wants to break away from the pack. He said ABC parent Walt Disney is fully behind the move.

The combined staffs will work as a single team responsible for Sunday’s “This Week” and “Nightline,” which airs weekdays at 11:35 p.m. ET. Bettag will continue to report to ABC News senior veep Rick Kaplan.

“When ABC News created ‘This Week’ more than 20 years ago, the news division made a commitment to Sunday morning television. I am proud to underscore our commitment to ‘This Week’ by providing the program with additional resources and the talented team of Rick Kaplan and Tom Bettag,” ABC News prexy David Westin said.

The exec producer slot at “This Week” was recently left vacant when Jon Banner left the post to become exec producer of “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.” In recent weeks, Banner raised eyebrows in the news biz when sending Stephanopolous to do location interviews, versus staying the Washington studio.

Bettag said it was a great idea, and that such ventures could be vastly enhanced with the help of “Nightline.”

Bettag begins his new assignment in mid-August, aided by “Nightline” veteran Leroy Siervers, who will now hold the title exec producer, and “Nightline” senior producer Richard Harris.

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