CBS said it has tapped veteran correspondent Anthony Mason to be interim anchor of its "CBS Evening News" broadcast after current anchor Scott Pelley steps down and moves to the news magazine "60 Minutes" on a full-time basis.
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Mr. Pelley, who has anchored the evening news show since June 2011, had his office packed up in full view of the newsroom while he was abroad this week on assignment for "60 Minutes," where he is a contributor. Mr. Pelley's move occurred before the network had formalized a succession plan or announced his departure.
There was speculation about Mr. Pelley's future in the past six months as his newscast's ratings fell. The "CBS Evening News" has long been in third place and now averages 6.9 million viewers. It trails ABC's "World News Tonight" with David Muir, which averages 8.47 million viewers and holds a very narrow lead over "NBC Nightly News" with Lester Holt, which has 8.465 million, according to Nielsen.
Among adults 25 to 54 years old, the key demographic that news shows target, NBC is in first place, followed by ABC and CBS.
"CBS has been great to me for nearly 30 years," Mr. Pelley said in a statement. "I'm glad to accept this assignment with continuing gratitude."
David Rhodes, president of CBS News, thanked Mr. Pelley "for his commitment to the journalism of this broadcast every night these past six years."
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CBS News Executive Editor Steve Capus said Mr. Pelley's tenure on the evening news "has been one of the finest chapters in the history of this storied broadcast."
While CBS's morning show, "CBS This Morning," is also in third place, it has become a critical darling and its numbers are rising. CBS's Sunday political show, "Face the Nation," is also a solid performer.
Once the television equivalent of an appointment to the Supreme Court, the job of evening news anchor is now much less secure. All three broadcast networks have gone through anchor changes over the last three years.
Viewership for the evening news has declined over the past quarter of a century with the emergence of round-the-clock cable news and the growth of online news and commentary platforms. However, the role of evening news anchor is still seen as a prestigious, albeit less influential, perch.
CBS has not set an exit date for Mr. Pelley and there is no obvious permanent successor. Mr. Mason, a correspondent with CBS for over three decades and a co-host of the "CBS This Morning Saturday," is seen as someone with a steady hand who will appeal to the network's evening audience.
This is the second time this year a high-profile on-air talent for CBS News has exited in dramatic fashion. In February, Josh Elliott, who had been anchoring the network's online news platform CBSN, was bounced after saying during his newscast that he was being groomed for bigger things at the network and would be appearing less online.
CBS, which had made no announcement regarding Mr. Elliott's future role at the network, decided to part ways with him.
Write to Joe Flint at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 31, 2017 14:21 ET (18:21 GMT)