George Stephanopoulos, what were you thinking? Trading an influential, inside-the-Beltway, Sunday-morning berth for the wee-hours gig of "Good Morning America"?
Giving up the high-minded debriefing of political movers and shakers on "This Week" to do cheesy, morning-show fluff?
Beyond the multimillion-dollar contract, it must be the fact that mornings are the sole remaining growth industry for network TV, and "Good Morning America" is the cash cow that supports the rest of ABC News' operations.
Smart move by ABC: Launch the new lineup Monday so as not to let viewers mull or build expectations.
Stephanopoulos' decision must reflect the idea that if he succeeds at "Good Morning America" as he's done on "This Week" (and as the network's plugged-in analyst from Washington), then he becomes the ultimate team player, to be repaid by the bosses for years.
In November, "Good Morning America" scored 4.4 million viewers, running 23 percent behind NBC's "Today." If he can narrow the gap, he's a hero. Even if he can keep ratings flat, he's a hero. Remember, in this media economy, flat is the new up.
Beyond money and exposure, the lure was the eventual crack at the nightly news audience, once Diane Sawyer leaves. The audience for "World News Tonight" is still significant, despite erosion, drawing some 6.5 million viewers at its recent low.
Naysayers suggest that beyond the killer hours and the drag of shuttling between Washington and New York for a "transition" period, it seems a backbreaking lateral move at best. Even if ABC accommodates the politically minded Stephanopoulos by beefing up the first hour with harder, smarter breaking news, some wonder if it's a good fit for him.
The Washington Post reported that in protracted negotiations, "Stephanopoulos has pushed for a role reshaped to spotlight his interest in politics and hard news rather than feature segments." It's tough to picture him doing cooking segments before segueing to discuss pending legislation.
The host of "This Week" is expected to do both the morning and Sunday jobs for now. As the dominoes fall into place, current "Good Morning America" news reader Chris Cuomo reportedly has been offered a job co-anchoring "20/20" with Elizabeth Vargas, and Juju Chang is slated to replace Cuomo on "Good Morning America."
Diane Sawyer takes over for the departing Charles Gibson on "World News Tonight" on Dec. 21, the move that started this round of dominoes in the first place.
"GMA" has been in second place to NBC's "Today" for 12 years, ever since Matt Lauer took over.