I asked ABC TV chief Anne Sweeney at our Global Media Summit on Monday whether the nightly news broadcast will go away someday soon. Everyone who follows the broadcast TV business has wondered this at some time or another, particularly as fewer people tune in.
Here's a bit of that conversation, where I got Sweeney to firmly say... not much. If you're in a rush, the general message appears to be:
News is changing along with the changing times
We believe in our news operation
Budgets may change (likely for the worse), but news is worth paying for
We're more than our evening news broadcast (where Charles Gibson is ceding the anchor slot to Diane Sawyer), but we're not going to say one way or the other whether we'll keep it going.
Me: News operation is often a big cost. Some say that evening news is losing its relevance as people get their news elsewhere. Is it possible that ABC would get rid of its evening newscast?
Sweeney: I think world news is not just about 6:30. I think World News is about being ready to provide the news whenever it happens. It's not just limited to that half hour. It's actually on all day. The ABC broadcast day opens, the network day opens with Good Morning America. ... So we always have the ability to come in with breaking news. ... And then shows like 20/20 provide us with an opportunity to go a bit broader. And then of course there's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, which gives us the Washington beat, which again can appear in the other shows throughout the week. So it's really a manner of managing the assets rather than focusing on (the 6:30 news)