'GMA' Producer Calls Meredith Vieira 'Huge Loss' for 'Today'; Says Robin Roberts Exit Rumors Are 'Garbage'
The game of musical chairs in the morning landscape continued today as Ann Curry was named the replacement to Meredith Vieira at NBC’s Today and Lara Spencer began her gig as a lifestyle anchor on ABC’s Good Morning America.
In the wake of those and other changes, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with GMA’s executive producer James Goldston, who moved over after reviving Nightline in late February. He addressed a report about anchor Robin Roberts’ departure, future shakeups at this show, and his plan to close the ratings gap between GMA and longtime No. 1 Today.
The Hollywood Reporter: We’re in the middle of a tumultuous period at the morning news divisions, with sweeping changes at each of the three shows. How do you explain it?
James Goldston: I’m not sure that they’re driven by the same things. I came in here a couple of months ago, so I’m new here and we have a new news president in Ben Sherwood. I think from the start there has been a plan that we’ve been discussing to change things up a little bit and to bring in a couple of new faces. I think we feel very confident that we have a team that can win in place now. There have been rumors about changes elsewhere for a long time and our feeling was if we’re going to make these moves let’s make them now.
THR: How does the shift at Today with Meredith out and Ann up, play into that plan?
Goldston: To some extent, it doesn’t play in. All we can do is strive to put on the best show that we can and what they do is their affair. Clearly, losing Meredith is a huge loss. She’s a formidable talent and that’s going to be an issue for them and we’ll see how that plays out. Certainly, we feel that we’re in a very competitive position now and the numbers are encouraging. We’ll see perhaps some of our best numbers in 20 years last week with the royal wedding coverage. The show feels editorially very strong as we’ve covered this string of incredible news stories. Last week we managed to break the only video anybody had in the world of Inside Bin Laden’s compound and in his bedrooms. If we keep breaking those kinds of stories, we’re going to do just fine.
THR: Given the 24-7 news environment that we now live in, what is the role of a morning show today? And how has it changed from half a decade ago?
Goldston: I think people still come to the morning shows. They want a good, solid debrief of what they need to know going into the day. Obviously, there’s a much greater emphasis these days on what happens once the show ends. We’re pushing the digital side of things and the social media side of things. The show is more than ever is a 24-hour operation, so that has changed. But the basic job of the morning shows I don’t think has changed. The numbers in the morning are still quite robust.
THR: Though declining on the whole …
Goldston: A little. But compared to the declines in other areas of the day, the declines are quite modest. And clearly between Good Morning America and the Today show, we’re hoovering up a very large proportion of the available viewers.
THR: You talk about new faces. Do you foresee other additions in the next year?
Goldston: No. I think this is our team. And we feel good about our team.
THR: Last week a report surfaced in The Daily that Robin Roberts exiting after this year. Any comments?
Goldston: None, other than it was total garbage. We told them that it was total garbage and they wouldn’t listen. It remains total garbage.
THR: There’s a lot of talk about Katie Couric bringing a talk show to ABC, which would also make her available as a news personality for the network. If given the opportunity, would you like to incorporate her into GMA? And if so, how?
Goldston: Well, now that supposes many too many things to be able to comment. [Laughs]
THR: Would you like to have her on your air?
Goldston: We have a team in place and we’re very comfortable with it. We use all of ABC’s players when and where we can.
THR: From where you sit, what’s the biggest challenge facing you? The thing keeping you up at night?
Goldston: We want to win. And we are working very hard as a team to bring that goal closer. We feel good – the indicators are moving in the right direction and those gaps are closing and we think that’s going to continue over the next few months.