Shelley Ross, Formerly Of ‘GMA,’ Takes Over In The Morning At CBS

Monday, September 10th 2007, 3:37 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Former ``Good Morning America'' executive producer Shelley Ross, given the reins at CBS' morning news show on Monday, says the idea of working on a third-place program ``makes me break out in a rash.''

Better bring the rash guard: ``The Early Show'' and its predecessors have spent most of a half-century behind NBC and ABC.

CBS News President Sean McManus said hiring Ross should send a signal the network is serious about competing in the morning, particularly with a format change on the horizon. Starting January, CBS will stop allowing affiliates in 20 percent of the country to pre-empt much of the national show for local news.

``She knows more about morning television than anyone I've ever talked to and is more competitive than anyone I've talked to recently,'' McManus said.

Ross revived ABC's ``Good Morning America'' behind Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer after a low point in 1999 and stayed until 2004, when her tough management style wore thin and she was replaced.

Steve Friedman, hired only in March 2006 to oversee ``The Early Show,'' is out. It's not clear whether Michael Bass, senior executive producer, will stay. Ross was given the title of senior executive producer.

While ``The Early Show'' made strides under the Friedman-Bass team, ``I just felt that if we were going to take the next step and compete against the other two, we needed to make more dramatic changes in the show,'' McManus said.

No decisions have been made about the host team of Harry Smith, Hannah Storm and Julie Chen, he said.

The show has averaged 2.6 million viewers this year through the end of August, up 1 percent from last year. NBC's ``Today'' show averaged 5.3 million viewers, down 8 percent from 2006, and ``Good Morning America'' had 4.7 million, down 3 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research.

``Today'' hasn't lost in the morning ratings for more than a decade, and had legendary booking battles with ``Good Morning America'' during Ross' tenure.

She said she's planning a new strategy and jump-start for the team at CBS, although she wouldn't tip her hand.

``I don't believe in being in third place,'' she said. ``Never have.''

She compared competing with her old employer to tennis' Williams sisters. You grow up together, support each other, ``and then you want to go out on the court and beat the pants off that person,'' she said.

Friedman said he's talking to McManus about other work at CBS. Once it became clear that Ross was coming, he said he wouldn't stay in his job.

``We both would serve the same purpose _ big personalities with big ideas,'' Friedman said. ``You can't have two people doing the same job. I don't think that it was a referendum on me. We sort of agreed that once (McManus) decided she would come in that our jobs would be redundant.''