- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Viewership for “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” has plunged 61 percent in the Washington area since the local ABC affiliate moved the Sunday morning talk show to an earlier time slot.

An average 26,000 households have tuned into “This Week” since Sept. 5, when WJLA-TV (Channel 7) moved it to 9 a.m. from its longtime 11:30 a.m. perch.

The show averaged 67,000 households in September 2003, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

Washington may be the only town where the Sunday talk shows really matter, but no one is panicking out on Desales Street NW, where ABC produces “This Week.”

“This is going to sound really strange, but we’re genuinely elated,” said Tom Bettag, the show’s executive producer.

“It’s going to take awhile for people to find us at 9 o’clock, but in the long run, we believe this move is really good for us.”

Mr. Bettag — who also oversees “Nightline” — has jazzed up “This Week” since ABC added the show to his portfolio a year ago.

Gone are the windy roundtable discussions that were the program’s hallmark when David Brinkley hosted it in the 1980s and 1990s.

Now Mr. Stephanopoulos regularly hits the road, taping pieces outside the studio for each week’s broadcast.

During the Democratic primaries, for example, ABC put him on a high-tech bus, where he conducted a series of sharp interviews with Howard Dean and other candidates as they rode to and from campaign appearances.

Each edition of “This Week” includes clips from recent late night talk-show monologues, an attempt to inject a little irreverence into the Sunday talk format.

“On most Sundays, we leave work feeling like we’ve put a pretty good broadcast on,” Mr. Bettag said.

WJLA moved “This Week” to 9 a.m. at ABC’s request, said Frederick I. Ryan Jr., the station’s general manager. Like Mr. Bettag, he predicted the shift will eventually pay off with higher ratings than the show was generating at 11:30 a.m.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” still rules Washington’s Sunday morning airwaves.

It drew 114,000 households on WRC-TV (Channel 4) in September, a 20 percent spike from September 2003.

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