Hoping to rev up its newsmag ratings, ABC announced at its upfront sesh Tuesday that mag “Primetime” will go back to being broadcast live when the fall sked bows in September.
ABC News’ other primetime mag, “20/20,” also sparked upfront buzz, saying it has closed a deal to bring Brit journalist Martin Bashir on as correspondent. The award-winning Bashir, who made headlines around the world with his docu “Living With Michael Jackson,” will arrive at the Alphabet this summer.
Bashir, who presently hosts the “Tonight” program, which is produced by Granada and airs on British commercial broadcast giant ITV, has been in negotiations with ABC for months. His deal is rumored to worth upwards of $1 million.
The decision to restore “Primetime” to its original format and name, “Primetime Live,” comes as former ABC News’ “Good Morning America” exec producer Shelley Ross takes over the show.
Walking the walk
ABC News prexy David Westin told Madison Ave. media buyers attending the upfront session that by broadcasting live, the show will guarantee greater immediacy and quicker response to breaking news.
“It’s time to walk the walk,” said Westin, adding that the changes to both news mags are the most “profound” he’s seen.
Taking “Primetime” live means expanding the pool of co-anchors, with ABC News announcing that correspondents Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden and John Quinones will join Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson as co-anchors in September.
“Primetime Live” will remain in its current 10 p.m. ET Thursday slot; likewise, “20/20” will remain it its 10 p.m. ET Friday slot.
Like its sister newsmag, “20/20” will also undergo a major change this fall, with ABC News correspondent Elizabeth Vargas replacing Barbara Walters, who is leaving the show. Vargas will join John Stossel as co-anchor. Walters will remain at ABC News proper, producing a number of primetime specials.
Weir tapped co-anchor
ABC’s news division also announced that local sports anchor Bill Weir has been named co-anchor of the new weekend edition of “Good Morning America,” which launches in September.
Most recently, Weir worked in television development for USA Networks and FX. Before that, he was sports director and anchor at KABC-TV in L.A. from 1998-2002.
ABC News had another reason to smile Tuesday — for the second week in a row “World News Tonight with Peter Jennings” beat leader NBC News’ “Nightly News With Tom Brokaw” in total viewers and in the demo. Victory came during the second week of the May sweeps.
According to Nielsen Media Research, “World” delivered 9.2 million viewers and a 2.6 rating in adults 25-54. “Nightly” delivered 9 million viewers and a 2.5 rating. It marked the first time since Feb. 1999 that ABC’s nightly newscast out-delivered ABC’s for two consecutive weeks.