Reiss out at 'NBC Nightly News'

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NBC News will name a new executive producer for "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" early next week.

Current executive producer John Reiss will run the broadcast today for the last time. He will remain with NBC News in an undetermined capacity.

Meanwhile, ABC declared victory for the February sweep in viewers and the adults 25-54 demographic with its "World News With Charles Gibson" — the first time since 1996 that the ABC evening newscast has won both measures.

Sources said the NBC News handover had been in the works for months. In December, Reiss approached NBC News president Steve Capus — his predecessor at "NBC Nightly News" during the first months of Brian Williams' tenure and the last years of Tom Brokaw's term — and asked about changing jobs sometime in the new year.

NBC News executives privately acknowledged that though the timing might indicate that the move was ratings-driven, that isn't the case. The relationship between Reiss and Williams wasn't as strong as it could have been, and the newscast wasn't meshing the way the network envisioned.

NBC is often quick with the trigger when it comes to executive producer changes. In April 2005, "Today" was still at No. 1 in the ratings, but with "Good Morning America" closing the gap, NBC removed exec producer Tom Touchet and brought in sports executive Jim Bell. Bell's tenure has been a success, and "Today" not only prevailed over "GMA" but has remained on top ever since.

Meanwhile, ABC's "World News" is poised to win the sweep with 9.7 million viewers and a 2.6 rating in the news demographic of adults 25-54, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. NBC is in second place with 9.6 million viewers and a 2.4 rating, and CBS is in third place with 7.6 million viewers and a 2.1. NBC still is ahead season-to-date by 464,000 viewers and 4% in the demo, Nielsen said.

"World News" executive producer Jon Banner said Thursday that strong anchoring by Gibson, Diane Sawyer's exclusive interviews with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Jonathan Karl's interview with Vice President Dick Cheney and Gibson's interview with former "World News" anchor Bob Woodruff boosted ABC's position in February.

"We've had terrific reporting over the past several weeks," Banner said.

It was the first time since November 1996 that the newscast had won a sweep in both key measures; "World News" completed its last demo sweep in May 2005.

NBC expects to make an announcement about a new executive producer next week. Reiss' replacement could be senior vp Alex Wallace, "NBC Nightly News" senior broadcast producer Bob Epstein or someone else from within NBC. Former CBS News president and onetime "CBS Evening News" executive producer Andrew Heyward was mentioned early in the process as well.

Reiss has been executive producer of "NBC Nightly News" since June 2005, when he took over from Capus. Reiss had been senior broadcast producer — Capus' second-in-command — since early 2002 and has worked at NBC News since 1994 as a producer at "Dateline: NBC." Before that, he worked at ABC for "Good Morning America" and other morning broadcasts.
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