With ABC News chief Ben Sherwood named today to replace Anne Sweeney as president of Disney/ABC Television Group, betting money is on James Goldston, senior vice president of ABC News, stepping in to replace Sherwood at the helm of the news division. ABC News declined to comment.
Goldston’s the guy credited with saving Nightline from oblivion, and turning Good Morning America into the franchise that deposed NBC’s Today as king of the morning show ratings — though Goldston already had been upped to Sherwood’s No. 2 guy, and Tom Cibrowski, who’d worked with Goldston on GMA, had been promoted to GMA chief when the program actually went in for the kill. Discussions about Goldston generally include the expression “golden gut” and he is said to be well-liked in the news division. He’s also considered so valuable to the news operation that discussion of Sherwood-replacement plans don’t seem to include any other names.
Back in March 2012, when Sherwood announced he was promoting both Goldston and Cibrowski — giving Goldston a new executive role as SVP for content and development and giving Cibrowski charge of GMA — Goldston was put in charge of ABC News’ programs and executive producers. He also was tasked with spearheading development of new shows for broadcast, cable, and other distribution.
Goldston, a Brit, worked for many years in England as a news producer covering conflicts in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Kosovo. During that time, he led ITV’s flagship Tonight and produced one of the world’s most-watched documentaries, Living With Michael Jackson. ABC bought U.S. broadcast rights to that docu, which was a big ratings hit for the network, hosted by Martin Bashir — 38 million watched the two-hour special on the network.
In that announcement, Sherwood described Goldston’s commitment to “high-impact journalism, enterprise reporting and making memorable TV.” As executive producer of Nightline, Sherwood said Goldston and his team “transformed the broadcast and took it from No. 3 to No. 1 in late night” (before ABC moved it out of the 11:35 PM time slot to make way for Jimmy Kimmel). After that, as senior executive producer of Good Morning America, Sherwood said, “the results have been excellent: the strongest competitive position versus Today in many years and a tremendous on-air and off-air team.”