NBC said Tuesday that Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams signed long-term contracts, and that Williams will replace Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News in November 2004, following the presidential election.
On a more immediate timetable, NBC News president Neal Shapiro said The
News with Brian Williams will remain only on CNBC and will be pulled off of
MSNBC, where it has also been televised.
That move allows Williams more time to spend working on the Nightly
News, both reporting and filling in for Brokaw, 62, who said the events of
Sept. 11 ultimately convinced him that he was not yet ready to leave the anchor desk
Brokaw has anchored Nightly News since 1983.
"I'm here because I couldn't walk away from the story," he said at a press
conference Tuesday afternoon, adding later that he thought the American viewing
public has "gone through a sea change" about television news since the terrorist
When a reporter asked Brokaw to respond to some stories suggesting the
traditional broadcast network newscasts have become "irrelevant" in an era of
all-news cable networks, Brokaw grumbled, "I think those stories are incredibly
irrelevant," and NBC CEO and chairman Bob Wright pointed out that the three network
newscasts still attract 30 million viewers per night.
"That's a staggering number of people," he added.
It was immediately unclear when the double-runs of Williams' newscast will be
discontinued, but Shapiro said his show may be reshaped to include more
As for Brokaw, signing off after the presidential election of 2004 seemed a
natural break, although he promised that after leaving the show, he would still contribute to the network and not retire.
Brokaw took an extended leave last summer, during which he said he decided on
a timetable for leaving that the terror attacks altered.
For Williams, the announcement makes official what many had already believed
-- that he was Brokaw's heir apparent.
But in recent months, Brokaw acknowledged, he knew that other networks had
approached Williams about jumping ship.