Shelley Ross, the hard-charging executive who transformed ABC's Good Morning America into a contender in the morning, is in talks to take the reins at CBS’ struggling Early Show, according to sources at the network and elsewhere.
But CBS executives are contradicting each other about whether the network is serious about bringing Ross back to morning news. One source told Broadcasting & Cable that CBS News was far along in negotiations with Ross, while another executive who should have direct knowledge of the talks said he hadn’t spoken to Ross.
A CBS spokeswoman said: "We are very happy with the progress of the Early Show. We have no announcements to make at this time."
It’s unclear where Ross' arrival would leave Steve Friedman, the current vice president of morning shows, or Michael Bass, the current senior executive producer of the Early Show as well as the Saturday Early Show and the CBS Morning News. Bass came to the network in 2001 from NBC, where he worked on the Today show.
The Early Show – which is hosted by hosted by Harry Smith, Hannah Storm, Russ Mitchell and Julie Chen, wife of CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves – has struggled to make an impact in the highly lucrative milieu of morning TV. In January, the network will abandon the current blended format which lets about 40 affiliates insert local content into the first hour of the show. The long-standing agreement with affiliates has made it difficult for the Early Show to establish a national profile.
Ross joined ABC in 1989 and rose through the ranks at Primetime and 20/20, where she wrangled big interviews with newsmakers, befriending Diane Sawyer in the process. The OJ Simpson trial was a high point for Ross, who was instrumental in negotiating Sawyer’s exclusive interviews with Mark Fuhrman and the family of Nicole Brown Simpson. She snagged the top executive job at GMA in 1999 but was replaced by Ben Sherwood in 2004.
She remained at ABC until her contract expired in 2006, producing last spring’s David Blaine special Drowned Alive, in which the illusionist spent several days in a water filled glass bubble at Lincoln Center.
Ross could not be reached for comment.