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NBC News president Steve Capus announced a series of management changes at the news division Tuesday that include a new executive producer for Brian Williams’ newsmagazine Rock Center and the promotion of Washington bureau chief Antoine Sanfuentes to senior vp of NBC News. The promotion makes Sanfuentes – who started at NBC News in 1990 as a desk assistant – Capus’ number two. He’ll have oversight of the DC bureau, investigative reporting, strategic partnerships and NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams (though Pat Burkey will continue as ep of the broadcast).
Sanfuentes essentially replaces senior vp Alex Wallace, who will take over as executive producer of Rock Center and also head Ann Curry’s production unit. Wallace replaces Rome Hartman, who was recruited to NBC News last year to launch Rock Center. Hartman was a longtime producer at CBS News where he worked on 60 Minutes before launching the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. He’ll stay at NBC News, working at the specials unit on the 2012 election and other initiatives.
Wallace has worked directly with Williams before, as ep of Nightly News from 2007-08. Rock Center has struggled to build a significant audience since it premiered last year. But the network is committed to the project; hiring dozens of new staffers and building a set at NBC News Rockefeller Center headquarters. The program did win an Emmy last week for Bob Costas’ 2011 interview with convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky.
Additionally, David Verdi has been promoted to senior vp of worldwide news gathering, where he’ll have oversight of news affiliate partnerships and the NBC News Channel. Ken Strickland has been promoted to Washington bureau chief taking over for Sanfuentes, while Meaghan Rady has been promoted to deputy Washington bureau chief.
The management shakeup at NBC News follows last summers’s formation of the NBCUniversal News Group, led by former Time Warner executive Pat Fili-Krushel, who was brought in post-Comcast merger by NBCUni CEO Steve Burke. Capus and CNBC president Mark Hoffman report to Fili–Krushel.
The changes also come on the heels of a high-profile on-air transition at NBC News’ cash cow Today show, which was precipitated by ratings challenges from ABC’s ascendant Good Morning America. Long the dominant broadcast news division with a diversified portfolio of assets that includes CNBC, MSNBC and a robust digital presence, NBC News broadcasts have been feeling the heat from competitors.
NBC Nightly News‘ main competition, ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, has been closing the ratings gap to the smallest margins since the last election cycle. For the week of Oct. 1, World News averaged 7.3 million total viewers, shy of NBC’s 7.75 million. In the key adults 25-54 demo, ABC has been within 300,000 of NBC’s haul (1.8 million compare to 2.07 million). CBS remains a distant third with 5.7 million viewers and 1.6 million in the demo.
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