Burying his lead, new ABC News President James Goldston sent around a memo to staff today — in Paragraph 6 of which was the announcement he’d promoted Good Morning America‘s Lara Spencer to co-host of the program along with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos. Roberts recently signed a new contract to stay with the show; ditto Spencer. Stephanopoulos’ contract was due to come up later this year — his reps are in talks with ABC News now.
Related: ‘GMA’ Beats ‘Today’ By Biggest Margin In Three Months
Spencer was the only one of three GMA-ers whose contracts came up around the same time as Roberts’ who re-signed. The two guys — Sam Champion and Josh Elliott – both got poached by NBC, whose Today show saw its longtime ratings record snapped two years ago by GMA.Which brings us to Goldston’s memo: celebrating tomorrow’s anniversary of GMA ending Today’s 852-week winning streak. Here’s the memo:
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ABC News’ Good Morning America has signed Lara Spencer to a new contract, leaving Josh Elliott the lone holdout among GMA cast members whose contracts are coming up now, as the morning infotainment show gets buffeted by competitor NBC. That NBC campaign reportedly includes talk with Elliott — who came to GMA from ABC parent Disney’s ESPN — about working for NBC in both news and sports, a sort of next-generation Bob Costas. Similarly, NBC poached GMA weatherman Sam Champion late last year; Champion, who had been with GMA since 2006, left to join NBCUniversal’s The Weather Channel as host of its new morning flagship show, and to become the channel’s managing editor.
Elliott, whose paycheck currently is in the $1.2 million range, is said to be seeking north of $8 million a year — a more than 500% pay hike. According to one industry insider, with Robin Roberts re-signed and now Spencer (George Stephanopoulos’s contract runs through the end of 2014, so he’s not part of this flurry), ABC News may have put a time ultimatum on the table with Elliott, though others say no. Regardless, there’s not much time left what with Elliott having less than four weeks left on his current deal.
So far, the blow-by-blow media coverage of the near-simultaneous contract talks with four of GMA’s five pieces of on-air talent, and reports of jealousy over Robert’s $14 million-ish deal has not dinged GMA’s one-big-happy-family image to a degree that impacts viewing, in the way similar media reports of internecine disharmony did to Today, reaching a fevered pitch around the time of the cringe-inducing denouement of Operation Bambi – aka the ouster of a weepy Ann Curry – in June 2012:
Even after Champion’s departure, for instance, GMA last week delivered its biggest overall audience since Nielsen electronic records began and its best news-demo delivery in eight years. Still it’s considered no coincidence that GMA added Elliott and Spencer to the lineup about a year before GMA eclipsed Today in the ratings. This puts Elliott in a good position, though he and ABC News are said to still be far apart on price, with the network offering about half his asking price — quite a spread. (For comparison sake, GMA’s George Stephanopoulos reportedly is paid about $6 million a year; his contract runs through this calendar year.) Read More »
Good Morning America will lend its ratings muscle to the October 28 launch of Fusion network, the news/pop culture/satire network from ABC and Univision. That morning, GMA’s Lara Spencer and Sam Champion will travel to Miami to appear live from the set of Univision’s morning infotainment show, Despierta America, joined by on-air talent from Fusion’s new morning infotainment program The Morning Show. Simultaneously, Karla Martinez and Raul Gonzalez of Despierta America will join the GMA team live in Times Square.
ABC News has finalized its lineup for the nine-week run of Good Afternoon America, the one-hour extension of Good Morning America that will run nine weeks beginning July 9. Josh Elliott and Lara Spencer will co-anchor the show, which Deadline first told you about back in April. It will act as a bridge between the end of the run of the freshman daytime series The Revolution (it was cancelled) and the start of the syndicated Katie Couric talk show Katie on September 10. For the GMA extension, the network said Sam Champion, Robin Roberts, and George Stephanopoulos will join in with special appearances on a show expected to be generally broader and lighter than the regular GMA; it “will feature the most-talked about celebrities, performances by the biggest names in the music industry, the latest pop culture news plus” among other things, ABC said.
CNN’s Brooke Anderson has been named co-anchor of CBS Television Distribution’s daily showbiz newsmagazine The Insider. She will join co-anchor Kevin Frazier in May. Anderson replaces Lara Spencer, who is leaving in May to return to ABC News’ Good Morning America. Anderson has been at CNN since 2000, currently covering entertainment for the main network and co-hosting Showbiz Tonight on sister channel HLN.
After seven years as co-anchor/anchor of syndicated entertainment newsmagazine The Insider, Lara Spencer will exit to join Good Morning America in May as lifestyle anchor. Based in New York, she will cover issues like family, parenting, health, fitness and work/life balance and will be involved in the morning program’s entertainment and celebrity coverage. In addition, Spencer will contribute to ABC News’ Nightline.
Spencer started off on WABC-TV in New York and worked for GMA as a national correspondent for four years before going to The Insider in 2003. Last year, Spencer was considered the lead candidate to succeed retiring Mary Hart on The Insider’s sister newsmagazine ET, but the job eventually went to Nancy O’Dell. “Lara and I have incredible memories together, so it’s bittersweet to say goodbye,” The Insider/ET executive producer Linda Bell Blue said. “We respect her decision to accept this exciting opportunity and wish her every success in her new job.”
Last week, Kevin Frazier started as co-anchor of The Insider, replacing Chris Jacobs who left to become ET correspondent. This is part of a larger restructuring according to Aaron Meyerson, President of Programming and Development for CBS Television Distribution. He added that a new co-anchor for The Insider will be announced soon. Spencer’s deal with GMA was brokered by WME’s Jon Rosen.
UPDATED: The Insider today named Kevin Frazier co-host along Lara Spencer, the first time an African American presenter has co-hosted a syndicated entertainment newsmagazine Monday-Friday in 3 decades, since Ahmad Rashad anchored Entertainment Tonight. (Shaun Robinson co-hosts the weekend edition of Access Hollywood.) Frazier will succeed Chris Jacobs who moves to Insider‘s sister program Entertainment Tonight as correspondent.
UPDATED: There were Internet claims at the time of retiring ET host Mary Hart’s announcement that The Insider‘s Lara Spencer had been chosen as her replacement. But we knew they weren’t true. Instead, we reported that CBS Corp CEO Les Moonves, CBS Television Distribution President John Nogawski, and ET’s producers “would look at her and other outside candidates”. And that’s exactly what they did. They went to the competition and fixed on Nancy O’Dell, veteran co-host of rival Access Hollywood, who will succeed Hart when she departs Entertainment Tonight after almost 30 years. O’Dell will join ET in January as a special correspondent and substitute anchor, and will assume her permanent role as co-anchor alongside Mark Steines after Hart’s departure at the end of the 2010-2011 TV season. “When Mary Hart told us she planned to leave ET at the end of this season, we went into denial,” ET executive producer Linda Bell Blue said. “But we also knew we had one tough job to do — find someone to fill that seat. In Nancy we have found that someone.”
Lotsa Internet sites are claiming just now that The Insider‘s Lara Spencer already has been chosen to replace Mary Hart as host of Entertainment Tonight. I, too, heard the rumor that Spencer was contractually guaranteed the gig during her last negotiation. But not so fast… “It hasn’t been promised to her. Her people planted that,” an insider tells me. I hear CBS Corp CEO Les Moonves, and CBS Television Distribution President John Nogawski, and ET‘s producers “discussed that she would do The Insider and we would look at her and other candidates outside so there was total transparency.” Spencer might still get the gig: she has that chirpy cheerful quality TV execs choose. But, jeez, who cares? I don’t even know her name. And lame celeb shows like ET are a dime a dozen on the tube these days and suffer from the same blandness.