Alphabet executives insisted “Nightline” is not threatened even as a top producer ankled the program over a disagreement about changes proposed to boost ratings at the storied show.
Co-executive producer Leroy Sievers, who has been running the show for the past 4½ years, said he would leave after disagreements over proposed changes, which include extending it to an hour, introducing multiple topics and starting live broadcasts.
“The company has made it clear that it is considering fundamental changes to the format and the direction that the broadcast takes in the future,” Sievers said in a statement. “We were unable to agree to those changes and are currently negotiating the terms of my departure.”
Sievers’ contract expired in September.
The departure of Sievers follows that of another longtime producer, Tom Bettag, who left the show more than a year ago to devote his energies to reviving “This Week,” the Sunday talker that had slipped in the ratings when George Stephanopolous became host.
Two years ago, ABC negotiated behind-the-scenes with CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” to take over the “Nightline” spot, and speculation has persisted since that the Alphabet will develop its own latenight talk show for the spot.
But since then, NBC has renewed Jay Leno’s contract and locked in Conan O’Brien as his successor. Jimmy Kimmel got a one-year extension for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and another possible host, Jon Stewart, extended his contract with Comedy Central. Former host, Craig Kilborn, left the “Late Late Show” in August.
But Alphabet execs were infuriated by a report in the Wall Street Journal Thursday suggesting that the changes signaled an attempt to “finish the job” it started in 2002.
The changes are meant to enhance the show and boost ratings, representing a further commitment to the show, not a precursor to its demise, those executives said.
Ted Koppel has been at ABC for 40 years, leading Nightline to 25 years. “His contributions to ABC are monumental,” said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider.
Nightline draws an average of 3.4 million viewers per night, compared with 6.3 million for NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and 5.6 million for CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman.”