NBCU’s Symphony just hit a sour note: Diane Sawyer — current reigning Queen of The Big Get — has taken the lead to land Bruce Jenner’s interview about his transition, which would mean ABC News once again has raced past rival NBC News. This would be particularly embarrassing for NBC News, given that Jenner’s a home-grown star — NBCU being the parent of E! Entertainment, where Jenner is patriarch of that network’s biggest franchise, The Kardashians. Doubly embarrassing: Jenner is an Olympic gold medalist, and NBC is the broadcast network of the Olympics.
ABC News has been a thorn in NBC’s side for some time, these days poking at it in morning infotainment, evening news and Sunday Beltway show ratings races.
Sawyer stepped down as anchor of ABC’s World News in September, saying she would concentrate on big specials and big interviews. Snagging Jenner’s first sit-down certainly would check those boxes. The interview is being mapped out with a view toward giving ABC a big May sweep ratings spike, reported Buzzfeed.
ABC News declined to comment.
Sawyer’s is one of the reigning queens of big “gets” — the others being Barbara Walters, who is kinda sorta retired-ish, and Oprah Winfrey, who’s busy these days with OWN and announcing she’s going to have a role in a new series for her network. In being a RQ of the BG, Sawyer has a big edge over the on-air talent at NBC News these days. In 1995, for instance, Sawyer landed the sit-down with Michael Jackson not long after he married Lisa Marie Presley; that media extravaganza averaged 37.5 million viewers. More recently, however, her 2013 exclusive interview with Amanda Knox logged an average of 8.5 million viewers, which was only about 800,000 viewers ahead of CBS’ original Golden Boy episode in the same hour. Sawyer’s sit-down with Knox had been the first TV interview for the Seattle college student convicted of murdering roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2009.
In November 2011, 12.4 million tuned in when Sawyer interviewed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 11 months after the lawmaker was shot in the head in an assassination attempt. And in March 2012, more than 15 million viewers watched Sawyer interview Jaycee Dugard about her kidnap from a South Lake Tahoe bus stop and 18-year captivity, during which she gave birth to two children conceived by rape.
An interview with Sawyer would be the first discussion of Jenner’s transition by a major news outfit. For months, his changing appearance has been the subject of coyly worded posts in the tabloids about the shaving down of his Adam’s apple, the growing out of his hair, the manicuring and painting of his fingernails, the possible plumping of his lips. Those tabloids have long been the newsletter of E! and of the Kardashian family in particular, and they did the first reporting that Jenner’s transition would be the subject of the latest in the pantheon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians spinoffs — also including Kourtney And Khloe Take Miami, Kourtney And Kim Take New York, Khloé & Lamar, Kourtney & Khloe Take The Hamptons, Dash Dolls, etc.
But the media’s screaming about Jenner — who won the Olympic decathlon in 1976 — and his changing appearance rose a couple octaves in the past week, culminating in news Sawyer has the lead to land Jenner. Kim Kardashian recently told Entertainment Tonight, “I think everyone goes through things in life” and that her stepfather would tell his story when he thought the timing was right. Which apparently is a sweep month.