ABC’s ‘Nightline’ Returns to Its Roots As Coronavirus News Swirls

ABC News
Courtesy of ABC News

Ted Koppel isn’t returning to “Nightline,” but the programming concept that elevated him and the show to wider renown is making a comeback.

“Nightline” got its start on ABC in 1980 as a late-night news program that spent its full half-hour length analyzing a single topic, based on months of Koppel’s end-of-day coverage of news centered around the Iranian hostage crisis. As people demand more information about the spread of coronavirus, the show will – for the foreseeable future – revisit its roots.

Starting this evening, “Nightline” will devote its entire 30-minute span to coverage of the outbreak of COVID-19, charting its spread around the globe. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent, will answer viewer questions and the program will rely on ABC News’ correspondents stationed around the world.

“Nightline” won praise for its serious and deep looks at individual topics during Koppel’s tenure, but in 2005 pivoted to a newsmagazine concept in the wake of Koppel’s departure from the program. The move reflected viewers’ changing tastes and a desire by ABC News to promote a wider range of anchors. The show is anchored by Juju Chang and Byron Pitts, and airs between 12:35 a.m. and 1:05 a.m.

“In times of global crisis, we as journalists have a public service to give our viewers the essential information they need to stay informed and help them make any decisions for their own and their family’s well-being,” said Steven Baker, executive producer of “Nightline” in a prepared statement. “This type of in-depth daily coverage is in the show’s DNA. After all, it was 40 years ago that our show began with daily news updates on the Iran hostage crisis.”

The format change is not expected to be permanent, but is likely to last for at least the next several days – if not longer.