NBC News has tapped interim chief Steve Capus to be the new president for its news division. Capus has been leading NBC News since September, when he took over for former President Neal Shapiro. In addition to the network news organization, Capus will also oversee MSNBC and the NBC News Channel, although CNBC does not fall under his purview.
He takes over at a time when NBC News is winning in the key morning and evening newscasts, but fending off its rivals. NBC’s Today show continues to be challenged by ABC’s Good Morning America and buzz is building that star Katie Couric might defect to CBS to anchor its evening newscast when her contract runs up next spring. The NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, which Capus executive produced from 2001 to 2005, is in first place and Capus is credited with engineering a smooth transition from former anchor Tom Brokaw to Williams in Dec. 2004. ABC’s World News Tonight is not far behind in ratings though, and both ABC and CBS are looking to revive their newscasts with new anchors. Another challenge will be turning around third-place cable news network MSNBC.
“NBC is in a different position from the other networks. We are operating from a leadership position,” Capus said in an interview with B&C. “The shows are deoing beautifully right now. We’re going to continue to evolve and push into new area with digital media.”
Capus says he is particularly pleased with Today’s recent ratings and Nightly News’ strong performance in the evening news race. Brian Williams “has built upon a great foundation from Tom Brokaw and pushed to a new level,” he says. And while much is made of GMA’s creeping up on Today, the show is still top-rated. “A month ago, people were predicting Today couldn’t survive November sweeps and Desperate Housewives would help propell GMA,” Capus said. “The opposite has happened. Today is stronger than its been in a long time.”
Capus is a veteran of local and network news. He started his career at WCAU Philadelphia in 1986 and four years later, at age 26, became the executive producer of KYW Philadelphia. He joined NBC News in 1993 as senior producer of the network’s overnight news program and, two years later, advanced to be supervising producer for Today. From 1997 to 2001, he executive produced William’s former cable newscast, The News With Brian Williams.
“In his long and distinguished career at NBC, Steve has touched virtually every aspect of this News division,” NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker said in a statement. “And over the course of the past two months, he has already taken NBC News to new heights. Steve has great journalistic judgment, the confidence of his colleagues, and a keen understanding of the importance of extending the NBC News brand across new platforms in this ever-evolving digital era. This is a well-deserved promotion, and one that will serve us exceptionally well into the future.”