As George Stephanopoulos moves to Good Morning America, I wonder: Why doesn't ABC have a deeper anchor bench?
(UPDATE: This Week host George Stephanopoulos has agreed to take over Good Morning America co-host slot vacated by Diane Sawyer on Monday. He'll host both shows for some time, though perhaps not indefinitely.
This means GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo, who had a contract clause allowing him to leave the show if passed over for one of the shows big chairs, will head to 20/20, co-anchoring with Elizabeth Vargas in a slot becoming known as ABC's home for failed anchors -- last occupant, John Stossel.
His replacement is Juju Chang, an ABC News correpsodent who also writes a blog on balancing work and family issues)
Because Stephanopoulos' move is part of a flurry of anchor changes set off by World News anchor Charles Gibson's retirement that has threatened the health of every significant ABC News franchise.
Diane Sawyer faced a boatload of media blowback when she didn't get the World News job twice (after anchor Peter Jennings' death and following the flameout of co-hosts Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff). So she had to get the big gig this time.
But that may disrupt two ABC News shows -- World News, which has been a solid second in ratings under Gibson's tenure, and Good Morning America, which has been a solid second behind NBC's Today show under Sawyer's watch.
Now comes Stephanopoulos' move, which reportedly involves negotiating just how much fluff he'll be forced to endure on the morning show. But that will disrupt ABC's Sunday politics show This Week, which he had built into a steady second place competitor to NBC's Meet the Press.
And who is the most talked-about possible successor to Stephanopoulos on This Week? Nightline co-host Terry Moran. But thanks to NBC's disastrous decision to place Jay Leno at 10 p.m. -- depressing their entire late night ratings -- Nightline sometimes scores winning ratings at 1:35 p.m., beating David Letterman and Conan O'Brien.
Of course, all these shows could benefit from the shakeup and extra media attention anchor changes provide. But the odds that every program will weather these transitions undamaged seems a long one.
Network news analyst Andrew Tyndall theorizes that ABC's biggest problem is that it doesn't have a cable news channel it its disposal to develop new talent. At NBC, anchors such as Brian Williams, Lester Holt and David Gregory all spent some time developing their chops on MSNBC before scoring their major gigs at the network.
And, as Tyndall points out, NBC has minted enough anchors to send top talent elsewhere, from Katie Couric at CBS to Campbell Brown at CNN and Elizabeth Vargas at ABC.
He also agrees with a point I have made here earlier, that moving to GMA may not be the best move for Stephanopoulos.
"Sunday mornings is a much more prestigious slot than it used to be," Tyndall said. "It has clout; you can exploit that and make yourself a brand. The generalist position on Good Morning America -- I'm not sure it does that."