By Gary Levin
NBC News chief Steve Capus plans to exit the network after a 20-year career capped by theToday's loss of its ratings crown to ABC's Good Morning America.
Capus, who became news-division president in 2005, told network staffers today that "it is an extremely difficult decision to walk away from a place that has been the backdrop for everything in my life since 1993," but said it was "time to head in a new direction." He will leave within the next several weeks as NBC seeks a replacement.
His exit had been the source of speculation since last year, when NBC Universal chief Steve Burke installed Pat Fili-Krushel, a trusted colleague, to oversee NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC, and she became Capus' new boss. That move coincided with the dethroning of Today as America's top morning show by GMA after a 16-year run, which continues to win among total viewers. And it followed the messy exit of co-anchor Ann Curry, who never quite clicked with viewers but whose hasty, mismanaged ouster drew outrage from her supporters. Savannah Guthrie, her replacement, does not appear to have helped Today make meaningful gains.
NBC Nightly News continues to lead rivals and MSNBC gained viewers last year, but a new NBC newsmagazine, Rock Center with Brian Williams, is failing.
In her own note to staff, Fili-Krushel praised Capus, saying "Steve has been a friend, boss and mentor to a great many people at NBC News for a long time and we will all miss him very much."