BC Beat

Shaking up Sunday Morning TV

3/16/2010 03:08:30 PM

If Christiane Amanpour accepts a reported offer from ABC News to be the new permanent host of Sunday public affairs program This Week, she will bring plenty of gravitas and capital-J journalism experience with her. But she will not necessarily bring the inside-the-beltway status of the rest of the Sunday political show class.

This could be a plus - or a minus.

If you are a political candidate, it is fashionable these days to cast yourself as a “Washington outsider.” But for Candy Crowley (CNN), David Gregory (NBC), Bob Schieffer (CBS News) and Chris Wallace (Fox News), each of whom have spent years examining the machinations of Washington, a certain insider know-how is crucial for knocking politicos off their somnambulant talking points.

Amanpour made her bones as a very brave war correspondent. And so her bailiwick is foreign news - a segment of the industry that has been in decline for several years. Her CNN program Amanpour, launched last summer, is steeped in foreign affairs. It also occupies a high-profile primetime slot on CNN International.

If Amanpour, who lives in Manhattan, takes the This Week job, she will either have to switch gears or ABC News will.

This season, This Week has dropped the third in total viewers behind Face the Nation, while the programs are tied for second in households and the 25-54 demographic.  

According to sources, Amanpour does not want to move to Washington, D.C. And she would like to bring an international focus to This Week. (CNN declined comment and an ABC News spokesperson said the network has nothing to announce.)

But the Sunday programs have a self-selecting audience. Their strength is their Washington analysis. And at this particular time in our country’s history, there is much at stake in Washington.

Could This Week, whose executive producer is the very able Ian Cameron (whose wife happens to be Obama administration senior advisor Susan Rice), be successfully remade to align with Amanpour’s interests? Maybe.

But there’s also some evidence to suggest that network news viewers are disinclined toward major format shake-ups. Just ask Katie Couric and the folks at CBS News.

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