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George Stephanopoulos Nabs Obama Interview, ‘Chief Anchor’ Spot

George Stephanopoulos Obama Interview

We reported yesterday that George Stephanopoulos will become ABC’s Chief Anchor following Diane Sawyer’s departure from the flagship evening news program, “World News Tonight,” later this year.

David Muir, currently the weekend host, will be manning the desk on “World News,” but Stephanopoulos will be the network’s go-to anchor for breaking news and major events, like national election coverage.

And it seems that not even 24 hours later, he already has a plum assignment: an interview with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.

Politico’s Dylan Byers reported that Stephanopoulos is joining Obama on the president’s trip to Minnesota, and that the interview can be seen on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday and “This Week” Sunday. Both are top-rated in their categories, frequently beating NBC’s “Today” and “Meet The Press,” and, incidentally, both are also hosted by Stephanopoulos.

One tidbit from the interview has already made its way to an ABC News blog post, which reports that Obama told Stephanopoulos that there have been “elements…of our foreign policy that have been shaped around the World Cup. Phone calls, meetings, initiatives we had to think about.”

The president also sounded an optimistic tone about American soccer, telling Stephanopoulos that while the U.S. is “not Germany yet or Italy or France or Argentina or Brazil…we’re now in the mix.”

But as ABC’s new chief anchor flies high with Obama and his two top-rated news programs, there could be some tension behind the scenes after the transitions announced yesterday.

In the wake of that news, The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove questioned if all was as joyful as the network made it seem.

Despite ecstatic expressions of happiness by all concerned in multiple ABC News press releases, the new arrangement sets up a potential rivalry between Muir, who can’t be expected to be satisfied as a mere news reader “doing six intros a night,” as one insider put it, and Stephanopoulos, who made the chief anchor job a condition of his re-upping six weeks ago for a long-term ABC News contract.

As The New York Times reported, the decision “breaks several precedents, chiefly the longstanding hierarchy in television news where the evening news anchor – from Walter Cronkite at CBS to Peter Jennings at ABC – was always the chief anchor for each network.” This is different mainly because of how successful ABC’s morning shows have been and how key George Stephanopoulos is to that success.

More from the Times:

At the same time, the moves underscore the predominance of morning news television over anything else produced by a network news division. In earlier eras, most prominently when Tom Brokaw was host of NBC’s “Today” show, the successful morning news anchor was promoted to evening news anchor, the ultimate career position in television news. But Mr. Stephanopoulos is now too important a part of ABC’s top-rated morning program, “Good Morning America” — by far the biggest profit center for the news division — to be moved to the evenings.

Success begets success, or so ABC hopes in the case of George Stephanopoulos and the network’s news operation. If Thursday’s Obama interview is any indication, they’ll probably be just fine.

[photo credit: CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies]

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