After nearly three months without a news division leader, former ITV News editor Deborah Turness has been named president of NBC News. The announcement came Monday from NBCUniversal News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, who led the search after Steve Capus stepped down last February.
Turness has considerable experience in daily news; she's been at U.K.-based ITN for more than 25 years. ITN produces daily newscasts for ITV, the chief rival to the BBC. For nearly ten years she has overseen those newscasts as ITV's editor.
“Deborah has built an outstanding reputation as both a journalist and business executive with a proven track record for innovation and collaboration,” said Fili-Krushel in a statement. “She is a leader with a global perspective, who is also very familiar with NBC News, having worked closely with us through our partnership with ITN. Her passion for the news business, combined with her creativity and vision, will be a tremendous asset to NBC News, and I’m very pleased to welcome her to the team.”
Turness will report to Fili-Krusel and begin Aug. 5. Her appointment comes at a challenging time for NBC News. Primetime newsmagazine Rock Center with Brian Williams – which had been moved around the schedule multiple times before landing on Friday nights – was among the casualties of the new season. After a much ballyhooed launch in October 2011, the show will finish its run in June. NBC's Sunday morning public affairs program Meet the Press with David Gregory has fallen behind CBS News' Face the Nation with Bob Scheiffer. And the Today show has lost its long grip on dominance to ABC's Good Morning America. Today, which airs over four hours on weekdays and several hours on Saturday and Sunday, generates a disproportionate amount of the division's ad revenue. In 2011, the show's 7-9 a.m. hours pulled in $485 million. (For the same period, GMA had $299 million, according to Kantar Media.)
The announcement also comes days after the conclusion of the annual broadcast upfront presentations and as media buyers are negotiating deals for the 2013-14 television season. Hoping to get a bigger share of the morning news ad revenue pie, ABC's sales team is forcefully talking up GMA's No. 1 status, ad buyers tell The Hollywood Reporter. Asked if Today's status and the negative publicity surrounding last year's awkward transition from Ann Curry to Savannah Guthrie was impacting the sales effort for the news division, NBCUniversal ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino told THR: “absolutely not.”
“I think it's provided a distraction for some people," said Yaccarino during a recent interview. "But the Today show is such a well-respected brand in our portfolio and [media buyers] see the continued evolution of the show and are very encouraged by what they see.”
Last fall, Willie Geist was named co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of Today. And NBC News recently brought Maria Shriver back to the news division as a special correspondent; she appeared during the network's coverage of the Papal Conclave.
Added Turness: "It is quite simply the greatest imaginable honor to be named as the next president of NBC News. I am hugely excited by the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to working with the talented journalists and technicians who make it one of the great global news operations."