ABC News has a new accent.
James Goldston, a veteran producer who began his career at the BBC in his native Britain, on Thursday was named president of ABC News. The move completed an executive shuffle that began a month ago when Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, said she would leave the company early next year.
Goldston takes the helm at ABC News at a time of notable growth. ABC's marquee programs "Good Morning America," "World News With Diane Sawyer" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" have achieved significant ground in the ratings and, in several cases, eclipsed NBC.
"Good Morning America" ended the first quarter of 2014 firmly in first place, averaging nearly 6 million viewers a day, its best performance in 20 years. Next week, the show will celebrate two years as the No. 1 morning show.
"Ben has put on us on a very good path to success," Goldston said in a brief phone interview on Thursday.
"My hope and expectation is to keep the growth going. We feel hugely optimistic in our ability to adapt to changes and to grow in the future," Goldston said. "These are exciting times."
Goldston joined the Walt Disney Co. a decade ago and quickly established himself as a competent and forward-thinking producer. He was put in charge of "Nightline," helping build the show into the No. 1 late night program in television.
After five years at "Nightline," Goldston moved in 2011 to "Good Morning America." He helped run that show for a year, a period in which "GMA" closed the ratings gap against its longtime rival, NBC's profitable "Today."
Goldston for the last two years has served as senior vice president for content and development at ABC News, helping Sherwood lead the division amid great changes as more consumers get their news from digital platforms. Still, despite the disruption, ABC's news programs have increased their audience.
"World News With Diane Sawyer" now averages 8.8 million viewers and is closing the gap against the leader NBC. The first-quarter was the most-watched in six years for "World News."
On Sundays, ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" has overtaken NBC's "Meet the Press" to become a strong No. 2 to CBS' "Face the Nation."
Goldston's new duties include oversight over all editorial and business aspects of the ABC News division, including all news programs on the TV network, ABC News Radio and digital platforms.
Sherwood, in the interview, said Goldston was the right person to lead the news operation.
"I have served with James in the trenches and in the control room during some of the biggest news events of our day," Sherwood said. "I know his judgment, his clarity of thinking and his leadership in both the good times and in the toughest of moments. I know that he will build on the great tradition of ABC News."
Before joining ABC News, Goldston was in charge of a popular British current affairs program, ITV-1's “Tonight With Trevor McDonald,” from 2002-2004. He began his career in television as a producer for several BBC News programs, including “Newsnight,” and the BBC's flagship current affairs program, “Panorama.”