In his first major move as president of NBC News, Andrew Lack on Thursday announced an overhaul of the prime-time magazine series that was to have premiered in June, installing a new executive producer and naming Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric as anchors.
Jeff Zucker, the 27-year-old executive producer of the "Today" show, will become executive producer of the newsmagazine, switching places with Steve Friedman, who had been executive producer of the morning program from 1980 to 1987.
" 'Prime Story' was created under a different set of circumstances at NBC News," said Lack, who took over as president of the news division three weeks ago. "I've been given a mandate to look around the news organization, and I thought, 'Is this the best possible hour that we could put on the air as NBC's second prime-time newsmagazine?' "
The answer was clear. "Prime Story," which was being developed as a single-subject program, somewhat along the lines of CBS' "48 Hours," will be retitled and given a new format, although Lack declined to be specific about it. The new program is expected to premiere this summer, but probably not by June 23.
Mike Schneider, Faith Daniels and Fred Francis, who were to have anchored "Prime Story," will either continue as correspondents on the program or will be reassigned to other NBC News programming, Lack said.
Lack, who was the creator of the "West 57th" newsmagazine at CBS News and executive producer of several other CBS News magazines, was said to believe that NBC would benefit more by giving Brokaw and Couric prime-time exposure. CBS executives believe that having Dan Rather front "48 Hours" has helped boost ratings for both the magazine series and his evening newscast.
Brokaw will continue to anchor "NBC Nightly News" and Couric will continue as co-host of the "Today" show. They will report some stories for the new prime-time newsmagazine in addition to anchoring every week.
Couric, who has worked with Zucker since the two of them came to NBC, was said to have asked that he be made executive producer of the magazine. Zucker also has experience with Brokaw, having worked earlier this year as executive producer of "NBC Nightly News." "The new magazine show is a great opportunity for me to continue to do new things in TV," Zucker said.
Friedman was credited with bringing the "Today" show from third place to first place in the morning-news ratings during his previous tenure on the show. In his new role, he will oversee both the weekday and weekend editions of the program.
Meanwhile, NBC was said to be close to signing Jeff Gralnick, the producer in charge of special events at ABC News, to take the helm at "NBC Nightly News."